, Volume 84, Issue 4, pp 531-540

Uncertain Readings and Meaningful Dialogue: Languageand Sexual Identity in Anne Garréta's Sphinzand Tahar Ben Jelloun's l'enfant de sableand la nuit sacrée

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Abstract

This article is concerned both with the role of language in the construction and de-construction of sexual identity and with the effects of reading fiction in which the first person narrator is of ambiguous or uncertain gender. Positing reading as a dialogue between text and reader, it shows how the use of language in Garréta's Sphinx withholds from the reader knowledge about sexual identity whereas the way language is employed in Ben Jelloun's two novels encourages the very notion of sexual identity to be called into question. The article goes on to suggest that the reader's own identity may well be implicated in the uncertainty which is fostered in the texts, and that, in order to fill the ensuing void, an active, interrogative and creative reading is thus generated. The conclusion emphasizes the positive nature of such reading effects, arguing that the process of questioning (our own) knowledge, and thus of the systems which underpin it, is just the first step on the path towards change.