Both/and aesthetics: gender, art and language in Brigid Brophy’s In Transit and Ali Smith’s How to Be Both

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Abstract

This paper sets out to read Brigid Brophy’s 1969 novel In Transit: An Heroi-cyclic Novel alongside a more recent example of contemporary women’s writing, How to Be Both (2014) by the Scottish writer Ali Smith. Notwithstanding the paucity of criticism on Brophy’s work, critics agree that her 1969 novel In Transit: An Heroi-cyclic Novel stands out as her most significant, experimental and challenging work – and therefore most egregiously overlooked. Despite the consensus, both personal and critical, of "outsiderdom" attaching to her work, Brophy may be seen as part of a longer tradition of experimentalism within women’s writing, which continues today. Indeed, Brophy’s work bears strong comparison with the post-1970s generation of women writers such as Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Michèle Roberts, and Ali Smith. I will argue that the literary and sexual-political preoccupations of Brophy’s path-breaking novel are in great measure consistent with those that contemporary writers such as Smith are currently exploring. In particular, Brophy’s work anatomises the artificial relationship between sex and gender, the dominance of heterosexual narratives and their relation to pornography, and the ways in which art, music and language mediate concepts of gender. The paper will provide an in-depth comparative analysis of In Transit and How to be Both to show how both writers refuse binary oppositions in a “both/and” writing practice that is simultaneously self-consciously aesthetic and political.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)248–263
Number of pages16
JournalContemporary Women's Writing
Volume12
Issue number2
Early online date2 Feb 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2018

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Keywords

  • Contemporary women's writing
  • Brigid Brophy
  • Ali Smith
  • gender identity
  • gender and language
  • both/and aesthetics

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