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'Waar voor hun geld met mijn lichaam'. Over arbeid en vrouwelijkheid in het oeuvre van Marie Kessels

By E.J. van der Neut


The narrators in the work of Dutch author Marie Kessels often have physical jobs that do not require higher education. What is their attitude towards their occupation, and how do they shape this attitude in their narration? In reviews of these books, the occupation of the narrators is often mentioned, but instead of analysing this theme, critics focus on formal aspects of the texts. In this research, the representation of labour in Kessels’s oeuvre will be studies both on the thematic and on the formal level. To do so, labour will be viewed in a historical philosophical tradition and subsequently introduced as a problem in literary studies. The used method is dialectical: the work will be studied in reciprocal relation with its context. A close reading of the texts shows that the narrators in Kessels’s work renounce a certain aspect of modern labour division: the abstract character of work in modern times. Other aspects, such as the physicality, are valued highly. The analysis shows that an important characteristic of the working body is that this body is feminine. Using the theoretical viewpoint of the écriture féminine, the ambivalent attitude of the narrators towards their gender identity is analysed as a way of mockingly repeating gender stereotypes in Western culture. Moreover, the resistance against abstract labour relations is shaped in two different ways, that can be characterized as masculine and feminine. Whereas Kessels’s narrators propose an inclination towards the ‘masculine’ model on the thematic level, they show ‘feminine’ resistance in the form of their texts

Topics: cultural representation of labour, gender, écriture féminine
Year: 2015
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