Vol. 4 No. 1 2020

Fractured Feminine Selves, Autospecular Affect, and Global Modernity: Meena Alexander and the Postcolonial Artist as a Woman
Author:Parvinder Mehta    Time:2020-07-06    Click:

Abstract: This essay takes up the modernist tradition of representing fractured feminine selves in the work of contemporary Asian-American author Meena Alexander (1951–2018), examining her representation of the postcolonial artist through a critical exploration of autospecular affect. Drawing on modernist impulses—the breakdown of human communication, the inefficacy of language, as well as experiences of alienation—Alexander depicts the creative act for the postcolonial artist as suffused with an autospecular desire to connect fragmented, displaced psyches through a reassessment of subjectivities. She delineates possibilities of moving past Eurocentric modernism through her articulation of the struggles of the postcolonial artist dealing with global modernity. Drawing from theories of specularity within affective paradigms, I trace the phenomenological process of self-other engagement in Alexander’s references to the autospecular subject looking in the mirror to understand herself and others around her. I also highlight how modernist writers such as Joyce, Eliot, and Woolf offer Alexander a metaphorical mirror wherein she sees the anxieties of the postcolonial artist and reflects them through renderings of their creative challenges. The essay concludes with a theoretical interpretation of Alexander’s autoscopic experiences in terms of Jacques Lacan’s “mirror stage theory” to understand subject formation in her work.

Keywords: Meena Alexander, affect theory, postcolonial artists, global modernism, feminism, Asian-American

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