Le grand voyage

Garet, Catherine Annie France
Cranna, John
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Master of Creative Writing
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Auckland University of Technology

For most writers who deal with displacement, rewriting themselves, articulating and communicating their sense of estrangment is their lifetime work. For displacement forces one to leave behind the familiar and embrace the unknown. In this process of deconstruction, the concepts of home, belonging and identity are renegotiated and questioned constantly. Le Grand Voyage – the working title for the draft of a novel that is presented in conjunction with this exegesis – is a fictional work that is produced out of the implications of displacement, which inscribes itself in a series of explorations I started in 2001, cumulating with two video works Frammento in 2003 and Footnotes in 2004. Le Grand Voyage investigates further the concept of home by questioning the home/mother relationship. The exegesis aims to contextualise the making of Le Grand Voyage by using another woman’s narrative as the main point of reference: Linda Olsson’s Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs (2005). Olsson’s work – like mine – is conceived out of the effects of displacement, and the literary form and structure display symptoms that are characteristics to narratives of displacement. By putting the home/mother/daughter in context, the narrative displays home as a patriarchal construct showing how the idealisation of home/place is predicated on a gendering of home, whereby, as McDermott notes, ‘home is constructed as a maternal, static and past, to which the (male) subjects longs to return’ (2003: 265). The narrative’s point of view is that of daughters but also that of mothers as daughters, and enables not only a feminist discussion of the notion of home but also of motherhood. Therefore, the theoretical approach for this work has encompassed feminists’ writings that have particularly focused their research on space, place and gender. In challenging the dominant form of gender constructions and relations, the first and second wave feminism have empowered many women to leave home in order to shape their own version of identity. I believe it is within the perspective of displacement, of being out of place, that many women continue to find the necessary distance to contest a particular reading of woman and home that still prevails in academic literature and fiction. Thus, an important part of this exegesis concentrates on the critic of home. I want to argue in a feminist way that our ideas of home and belonging still reflect gendered assumptions and are therefore contestable. That displacement as a catalyst for loss, emotional grief and mourning becomes an enabling way for women to rethink home in terms of what was at play rather than in place and to do the ‘memory work’ that feminists ask women to do: to remember in order not to forget because ‘forgetting is a major obstacle to change’ (Greene, 1991: 298). Their attacks on the feminisation of place have opened up for me possibilities to think of home outside the parameters of sameness. They have also enabled me to understand the paradoxical position a displaced person is faced with: if displacement is favored and privileged why then do longings for home still persist for some? – a fact that is well illustrated in the actual resurgence of the preoccupation to belong. The gain in displacement also involves the fact that distance forces one to look at the longing and nostalgia for what they really conceal. In the case of a woman and, motherless daughters, distance, as this exegesis demonstrates, enables the writer to unveil the longings as subversive and fraudulent, tricking women into thinking there was nothing better than the past: home sweet home, the safe, bounded nest where women could be women: could be the mother. With the ‘memory work’ they both learn to think away from the parameters of sameness and the past, outside the nostalgic stances of singularity, safety, boundaries and internalised histories, therefore outside of the maternal, the home/mother relationship. ‘What is home?’ is a difficult question to negotiate for a woman. The exegesis and the first draft of the novel show what is at stake when one asks the question and the responsibility of women when writing about home.

Concept of home , Narrative of displacement , Feminist perspective , Mother/daughter relationship , First draft novel , Linda Olsson’s "Let me sing you gentle songs" (2005) , Feminisation of place , Nostalgia , Gender construction , Home/mother relationship , Memory , Longings , Gendering of home , Literary structure
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