Book chapter

Writing in the fourth person: a Lacanian reading of Vizenor's pronouns

Published inGerald Vizenor : texts and contexts, Editors Madsen, D. L. & Lee, A. R., p. 130-151
PublisherAlbuquerque : University of New Mexico Press
Publication date2010

Recognition, as Jacques Lacan formulates it in “The Eye and the Gaze,” is not simply knowledge of an object but crucially knowledge of ourselves and self-recognition through the agency of language and the language of the Other. So when we address another speaker, we are also and always addressing a silent and invisible, all-seeing and omniscient, interlocutor: the Other who maintains surveillance over how we speak. On a foundational level, it is with this Other that we check the correctness of our grammar, the propriety of our vocabulary, the effectiveness of our rhetoric. In another simultaneous register, the truth value of what we say when we give our word by articulating it to another and to an Other is also at stake. Certain kinds of literature lay bare this dynamic within the structure of language. In this essay, I argue that Vizenor's writing not only performs this deconstructive linguistic work but, further, challenges us to read in the validating power of the Other a trace of “the real names, nouns, and pronouns heard in the unbearable simulations of tribal consciousness.” It is in his refusal to make sense according to the dictates of the Other that the difficulty of Vizenor's writing lies. Most obviously through his neologisms, Vizenor revolutionizes the way we situate ourselves discursively in relation to ourselves and others. Pronouns offer a vehicle for destabilizing and exposing the terms upon which we conventionally make sense of, and communicate with, the world. Vizenor continually draws attention to this dimension of his writing: in his interviews, in his non-fiction prose, and in his creative work. In this essay, I use a Lacanian framework to analyse the very specific linguistic function of the pronoun in Vizenor's writing, with particular attention to the early autobiographical piece, “I Know What You Mean, Erdupps MacChurbbs” (1976).

  • Gerald Vizenor
  • Language
  • Jacques Lacan
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Native American Literature
  • Indigenous Studies
  • Life-writing
Citation (ISO format)
MADSEN, Deborah Lea. Writing in the fourth person: a Lacanian reading of Vizenor’s pronouns. In: Gerald Vizenor : texts and contexts. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, 2010. p. 130–151.
Main files (1)
Book chapter (Accepted version)
  • PID : unige:152064

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