Monthly Archives: March 2008

The Narrative Topology of Resistance in the Fiction of Joanna Russ

This essay was originally published in On Joanna Russ (edited by Farah Mendelsohn, published by Wesylan, 2009)

  1. Introduction

joanna-russNarrative is both a kind of engine and a kind of friction, creating a tension that both drives and prescribes story. The stories of our lives motivate us along certain narrative arcs, but to stray from those arcs is to move out of bounds. Narrative, in other words, is a way of mapping and transacting with the epistemologically dicey territory of life, culture and world. Narrative is epistemologically dicey in that knowledge of life and culture is riven with the gaps of the unknown and the plains of negotiated reality. We know and become ourselves in terms of our stories and it is thus appropriate and useful to theorize narrative in explicitly topological terms. Narrative, then, is not only literary. It is, in reality, primarily cognitive, due to the social formation of human ontology (see Ochs and Capp). Narrative exerts constraints on human epistemology (see Harré) and emotion (see Hsu et al.) as well as on human cultural and political constructs (see Bhabha). Continue reading