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Doris Lessing and the Forming of History$
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Kevin Brazil, David Sergeant, and Tom Sperlinger

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474414432

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414432.001.0001

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The Politics of Form: The Golden Notebook and Women’s Radical Literary Tradition

The Politics of Form: The Golden Notebook and Women’s Radical Literary Tradition

(p.56) Chapter 4 The Politics of Form: The Golden Notebook and Women’s Radical Literary Tradition
Doris Lessing and the Forming of History

Rowena Kennedy-Epstein

Edinburgh University Press

In A Proper Marriage (1954), Martha Quest wants to ‘break the nightmare of repetition’ that has shaped the twentieth century — the seemly unending cycle of patriarchy, nationalism, war, colonialism, and rigid political ideologies. In TheGolden Notebook (1962), Lessing enacts this disruption through an experimental crossing of genres, documenting, as if fulfilling Virginia Woolf’s wish in Professions for Women (1931), the ‘sexual lives of women’ in the context of collective histories. Through her combination of fiction, documentary material, political theory, and memoir, Lessing offers a nuanced reading of the connections between state violence, sexual hierarchies, and political crises. Using textual hybridity to resist closed formal and political structures that reinscribe authority, Lessing writes women as central narrators and subjects of twentieth-century politics and history, subverting the boundaries of gender and genre. However, Lessing’s radical textual and political project is not a singular one. This chapter considers new ways of reading Lessing’s text alongside works by Virginia Woolf, Muriel Rukeyser, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Arundhati Roy, and Claudia Rankine, arguing that the The Golden Notebook is not only better understood within these networks, but is pivotal for understanding the formal and political possibilities of hybridity in the hands of women writers.

Keywords:   Doris Lessing, feminism, postcolonialism, radical women’s writing, A Proper Marriage, The Golden Notebook

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