Hands as markers of fragmentation

Anette Barnard, Jan-Louis Kruger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Margaret Atwood is an internationally read, translated, andcritiqued writer whose novels have established her as one ofthe most esteemed authors in English (McCombs & Palmer,1991:1). Critical studies of her work deal mainly with notions ofidentity from psychoanalytical perspectives. This study hasidentified a gap in current critical studies on Atwood’s works,namely the challenging of textual unity which is paralleled in thechallenging of the traditional (single) narrative voice. Thechallenging of textual unity and the single narrative voice bringsabout the fragmentation of both. This article will focus on therole that hands play as markers of fragmentation in “The BlindAssassin” (2000). In the novel, the writing hand destabilises thenarrative voice, since it is not connected to the voice of a singleauthor. If the author of the text – the final signified – iseliminated, the text becomes fragmentary and open, inviting thereader to contribute to the creation of meaning. Hands play asignficant role in foregrounding the narrator’s fragmentedidentity, and consequently, the fragmentation of the text. We willinvestigate this concept in the light of Roland Barthes’ notion ofthe scriptor, whose hand is metaphorically severed from his orher “voice”. Instead of the text being a unified entity, it becomesunstable and it displays the absence of hierarchical textuallevels. Based mainly on Barthes’ writings, this article concludesthat hands foreground the narrator’s fragmented identity, which is paralleled in the fragmented text.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-37
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

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