‘Souls all unaccompanied’
Enacting feminine alterity in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping
in Marilynne Robinson
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Marilynne Robinson’s debut novel Housekeeping is a novel about women that is frequently read as a feminist version of the American male Bildungsroman. Beginning with its very title, it highlights various methods by which feminine alterity may function to welcome the lonely and make the home a place of refuge, while also illuminating its theoretical limits. This essay argues that Robinson’s adult women characters both support and complicate the lived efficacy of feminine alterity as they attempt to create a welcoming home for two young orphans. It also demonstrates how Robinson’s aesthetic is the most successful enactment of feminine alterity because it makes ethical behaviour – what Levinas sometimes calls holiness – possible.

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