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Marguerite Duras embarked on a second career as a film director in the late 1960s; by then was already a well-known and highly acclaimed novelist and playwright. Bearing in mind this dual influence, this book presents an outline of Duras's early life and of her later political preoccupations, highlighting the relationship between these two dimensions and her films. Duras's aim was to transcend the limitations of both literature and cinema by creating an écriture filmique. Working within the 1970s French avant-garde, Marguerite Duras set out to dismantle the mechanisms of mainstream cinema, progressively undermining conventional representation and narrative and replacing them with her own innovative technique. The making of Nathalie Granger in 1972 coincided with the period of intense political activity and lively theoretical debates, which marked the early years of the post-1968 French feminist movement. India Song questions the categories of gender and sexuality constructed by the patriarchal Symbolic order by foregrounding the Imaginary. Agatha mirrors transgressive relationship and quasi-incestuous adolescent relationship, as the film resonates with the off-screen voices of Duras and Yann Andréa who also appears on the image-track where he represents Agatha's anonymous brother. Her work, both in literature and in film, distinguishes itself by its oblique, elusive quality which evokes her protagonists' inner landscape instead of dwelling on the appearances of the external world.

, including gender identity. At this stage, therefore, the child is unaware of the complex social norms and expectations linked to gender and grafted on to biological sex. However, the mother/child relationship comes to an end through the intervention of the father who represents the position of authority in the patriarchal Symbolic order. It must be noted that ‘the father’ in Lacan is an abstract figure representing the paternal

in Marguerite Duras

.10 Using a psychoanalytically derived theory of the fetish, she argued persuasively that the reoccurring image of woman’s difference from man – her lack of a penis – bolsters and maintains the phallocentric symbolic order. Mainstream cinema reinforces the patriarchal symbolic order through formal devices that consistently objectify and fetishize female characters. Mainstream film editing, changes in focal distance, plot development, and 195 196 Engendering an avant-garde other techniques rely on the uneasy combination of a viewer’s pleasure in looking

in Engendering an avant-garde
Word and image in Chicago Surrealism

the depiction of three-dimensional space and is invited to see through them to other dimensions intimated within or beyond. David Lomas argues that the appeal of mental illness to the Surrealists lay in its challenge to the patriarchal symbolic order, through its disruption of syntactic and semantic conventions.58 Hysteria is figured in Smokey Stover in similar though not entirely congruent ways, insofar as the abundance of visual and verbal puns undermines the autonomy of either mode of signification. Insisting on the materiality of words and letters and the

in Mixed messages
Night Must Fall (1964)

, Karel Reisz , p. 53. 26 Lacan draws a clear distinction between the Phallus – an imaginary plenitude representing the primal lack of unity with the primordial mother, a condition shared by both sexes – and the phallus/penis, the defining signifier of the patriarchal Symbolic Order, which is possessed only by the male.

in Karel Reisz
Irigaray and Mary Daly

view? – which means we cannot see the wood for the trees, and the same goes for other cultural diversities – religious, economic and political ones. Sexual difference probably represents the most universal question we can address. (1996: 47) There are those that would argue that Irigaray can be read in a pluralist way, and her work can be applied to issues of difference other than sexual difference (Oliver 1995; Ziarek 2001),27 but it is of paramount importance to recognise, as Patricia Huntington does, that ‘Irigaray’s dyadic conception of the patriarchal symbolic

in Divine love