Chiastic Trajectories of the Discourses of Love in Jeanette Winterson's 'Lighthousekeeping'
This paper maintains that Jeanette Winterson’s Lighthousekeeping (2004) articulates a double love discourse, shaped into a chiastic pattern. This is textualized in the two narratives at the heart of the novel, that are built around the crucial opposition light/darkness epitomized by the symbolic lighthouse and signified by the names of the two protagonists. The study draws on feminist, psychoanalytical and post-structuralist theories. The first narrative tells of the masculine trajectory of desire of Babel Dark, whose labyrinthine passions chart the movement from light / love to darkness /death. It is a narrative of betrayal and violence, of loss and abjection that pulverize the self. The only escape Babel can envisage from the dichotomous oppositions of the oppressive Symbolic Order is his final ‘drowning’ into the semiotic world of fluidity of the dark ‘underwater cave’ at the bottom of the sea. Dovetailing with this Victorian narrative, there is that of Silver. Her quest for identity and love inscribes the opposite trajectory that moves from darkness to light, from loss and lovelessness to the final discovery of her ‘treasure’. In her open, fluid trajectory and the intensely lyrical voice of her desire, Winterson here inscribes a Kristevan subject in process. The discourses of love that are realised in Winterson’s postmodern text are read in intertextual relationship with Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1975) and Julia Kristeva’s Tales of Love (1987) and Powers of Horror (1982).
Keywords: Romance, Postmodernism, Desire, Barthes, Kristeva
Dr. Maria Antonietta Struzziero
Teacher of English Literature in a Secondary School, Humanities Department, University of Salerno