Article published in:Keeping Ourselves Alive
[Journal of Narrative and Life History 3:2/3] 1993
► pp. 179–196
(Sub)textual Configurations: Sexual Ambivalences in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar
Abstract Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (1963/1980) has become one of the classic 20th-century stories of female adolescence. Feminist critics have analyzed this tale of madness and self-destruction primarily in terms of gender conflicts. From a specifically lesbian feminist perspective, this article presents a "stressed read-ing"1 of The Bell Jar, arguing that it is not in the first place the operations of gender ideology, but rather the contradictions of female (hetero)sexuality that play a determining part. The resulting conflicts are shown to operate on the novel's narrative as well as discursive levels. The discussion centers on the two most striking features in which sexual ambivalences surface in the text: the relationship between the narrator and her protagonist and the figure of the Doppelgänger. Behind the mask of the female adolescent, it is argued, the configuration of a truly transgressive,2 lesbian sex/textuality can be discerned. (Literary criticism; gay and lesbian studies)
Published online: 04 August 2015
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