Subjectivity, as the Introduction suggests, is a very insecure possession. In this chapter, the three texts discussed are produced by writers who, in the words of Julia Kristeva, are sujets-en-procès (subjects in process/on trial). Kristeva argues, in fact, that all subjectivities are sujets-en-procès, that subjectivity is never complete, but is always in the process of being made and remade by the competing forces of the Symbolic order (the non du père) and the semiotic, a space made up of the demands of the body and of the non-signifying parts of language, such as speech rhythms, sounds, intonations and other non-semantic gestures. Additionally, she argues that it is a kind of trial — a trial for one’s life, one might say — in which laws made before one’s birth compete with the apparently autonomous self’s attempts to assert its individuality.1 In bringing these three very different texts together, I want to suggest a number of possible ideas about subjectivity, and I begin with Kristeva’s concept because the paired ideas of trial and process are more acutely felt in some of these texts than in other places. In part, subjectivity depends on pre-existing scripts — you are what you have the ability to say, and, by extension, you are what you have read. This is particularly the case for the two relatively underprivileged subjectivities discussed here, the fictional character Pamela Andrews brought to life in Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela, and the real-life historical personage, Ouladah Equiano. Their attempts to make themselves — to achieve self-possession, one might say — depend very heavily on the privileged models of self hood that they find in already-existing texts.
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- Pamela, Rousseau and Equiano: Trousseaux, Confessions and Tall Tales
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