Susan Watkins
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Writing in a minor key
Doris Lessing’s late-twentieth-century fiction
in Doris Lessing
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Doris Lessing's late twentieth-century fiction has often provoked and discomfited. Some readers of The Fifth Child (1988), its sequel Ben, in the World (2000) and Lessing's 1999 novel Mara and Dann were disturbed by her appropriation of racially marked stereotypes of the animal, the primitive and the atavistic. Such imagery has controversial implications in relation to ideas about ‘race’ and nation. Moreover, Lessing deploys what might be termed the ‘minor’ genres of urban gothic, picaresque and disaster narrative in her late twentieth-century work in unfamiliar and disturbing ways. In analysing Lessing's late twentieth-century ‘fabular’ fictions in relation to ideas about genre and ‘race’, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's discussion of ‘minor’ literature proves instructive. Deleuze and Guattari define minor literature as exhibiting three main characteristics: ‘the deterritorialisation of language, the connection of the individual to a political immediacy, and the collective assemblage of enunciation’. Thus, minor literature has a partial relation to nationality both linguistically and generically. Lessing's resistance to territoriality is the overriding concern of her 1987 collection of four short essays, Prisons we Choose to Live Inside.

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