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‘Nowhere to bury the dead’: Finitude, nationalism and artistic communities in Janet Frame’s Living in the Maniototo

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The ambivalent combination of postmodernism and postcolonialism in Janet Frame’s novel Living in the Maniototo has been discussed by critics such as Janet Wilson and Marc Delrez. This article aims to find an alternative explanation for her ‘transcendental’ postmodernism that does not reside in Frame’s postcolonizing impulse, but rather in a more universal drive that can be explained through the work of Jean-Luc Nancy and Maurice Blanchot and their reinvention of the notion of community. While in other studies I have systematically outlined the failure of communities in Frame, the present article explores her paradoxical community of one. In its inextricable connection with death, this model offers the potential to ‘unwork’, in Nancy’s words, traditional or ‘operative’ communities. As I will argue, the approach to death is radically different in Frame’s later fiction. The result is a community of one that needs to be redefined in relation to Frame’s ambivalent approach to the community of artists and New Zealand patriotism. Jacques Derrida and Pierre Bourdieu will provide the theoretical rationale to understand Frame’s peculiar experimentation that leads her to a communitarian revision rather than to the solipsism of which she has been frequently accused.
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Keywords: New Zealand nationalism; artistic community; community of one; death; metanarration; postmodernism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Granada (Spain)

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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