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«Xiaowei Chen S1421476 Supervisor: Dr. M. J. A. Kasten Media Studies Comparative Literature and Literary Theory Leiden University August, 2014 ...»

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Peeling the Orange: An Intertextual Reading of Oranges Are Not the

Only Fruit

Xiaowei Chen


Supervisor: Dr. M. J. A. Kasten

Media Studies

Comparative Literature and Literary Theory

Leiden University

August, 2014


This thesis aims to explore the intertextual relationship between Jeanette Winterson’s

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and the Bible, and the intertextual relationship

between Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Winterosn’s documented life in her

memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and interviews. With the help of the core concepts of paratextuality, allegory, and authorship, I shall work with Gerard Genette, Angus Fletcher, and Michel Foucault to examine the intertextuality revealed among the above-mentioned texts.

Key Words: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the Bible, Jeanette Winterson, intertextuality Content Introduction

Chapter One Theoretical Framework

1.1 Intertextuality

1.2 Paratextuality and Allegory

1.3 The Role of the Author

Chapter Two Intertextuality between the Bible and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

2.1 The Paratextual Relationship between the Bible and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

2.2 An Allegorical Reading with Case Studies

2.2.1 The Orange

2.2.2. The Chapter “Leviticus”

2.2.3 The Chapter “Joshua”

2.2.4 The Chapter “Judges”

2.2.5 The Chapter “Ruth”

ChapterThree Intertextuality between Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Jeanette Winterson’s Documented Life

3.1 A Comparative Study between Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Jeanette Winterson’s Documented Life

3.2 The Role of the Author




Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit written by British writer, Jeanette Winterson tells the story of Jeanette, a girl who is born and raised in a religious family under the influence of her pious mother and local community. Jeanette is home-schooled before her mother receives a letter to force Jeanette to be sent to school. In school, Jeanette becomes an outsider for her faith in God, and later in life, she is an outsider for her sexuality. She knows she is different, but her difference is not truly revealed until she meets a girl called Melanie. They quickly fall in love. As soon as the “scandalous” affair is discovered by Jeanette’s mother, she asks the church to exorcise the demon in her daughter. Jeanette and Melanie are forced to break up. At the young age of sixteen, Jeanette leaves the church and her family. At the end of the book, she goes back home for Christmas, and sees her mother, not steadily holding on to the issue of Jeanette’s sexuality any more, have embarked on a new but still religious life.

My research question would be how the Bible relates to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and how the novel relates to Jeanette Winter’s personal life. How do the three of them interact altogether? This thesis paper aims to explore the intertextual relationship between the Holy Bible and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, as well as the intertextual relationship between Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and its author.

Within the context of the former, I intend to examine the functions of the intertitles of the novel, and how biblical stories and the narrative of the novel establish a two-way dialog between each other. With regard to the latter, I will make use of Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, and elaborate on the author’s role in the novel and literature at large.

Throughout the book, a clear intertextuality between the Bible and Jeanette’s life is visibly shown. Living in a religious family, Jeanette’s life is a religious life; her community is a religious community. In the beginning, she is raised to be a missionary and to serve the church. One finds a large number of biblical quotes and hymns in honor of God in the account of Jeanette’s life. Interestingly enough, the names of the chapters of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit are the names of the first eight books of the Old Testament. This appropriation of the Bible to some extent relates to the life story of Jeanette. Just as the first five books of the Old Testament are about the law of the world, the first five chapters of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit are also about the law of the world in which Jeanette lives in. It’s a world of cruelness and obedience. In this world, a father figure like God is absent, instead, the law is represented by a feminine figure, Jeanette’s mother. The last three chapters tell the dramatic changes in Jeanette’s life after her affair with Melanie is let out of the bag, just as the next three books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth narrate the history of Israel.

In Paratexts, Gerard Genette writes about the functions of different kinds of paratexts, one of which is intertitles, i.e. the names of chapters. Generally, titles could be divided into thematic titles and rhematic titles, and intertitles can be divided into four major types: fictional narratives, referential (historical) narratives, collections of poems and theoretical texts (Genette, 298). I argue that the intertitles of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit serve as the narrative thread of the book, with the narratives of the Bible serving as an interpretative framework for the story of Jeanette’s. Furthermore, these biblical stories render it possible to do an allegorical reading of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Allegory is thus enlisted as a methodological concept and a mode of reading. Foucault, in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences argues that all periods of history have certain underlying epistemological assumptions.

The Bible in this case, serves as an episteme or a pretext. It itself is an allegory, and it is used by me as an allegory to interpret Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

Apart from this strong intertextuality between the Bible and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, there is also a close link between the novel and Jeanette Winterson’s personal life. In the introduction of the book, Winterson asks the rhetorical question whether it is an autobiographical novel or not. She answers, “No not at all and yes of course” (Winterson, xv). Jeanette Winterson obviously shares a similar life story with Jeanette in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. She was raised in a Christian family herself. Her own mother is a strong and pious woman, just like the mother in the book.

Jeanette Winterson was raised to be a missionary as well. When she realized her lesbian sexuality at the age of sixteen, she left home and finally got into Oxford University. In her autobiography Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

published in 2011, she wrote about her first novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: “It is semi-autobiographical” (Winterson, 1). Her sharing of her own name “Jeanette” with her protagonist is by no means a mere coincidence. In In search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust also gives his own name “Marcel” to his main character. Of course the Marcel in In Search of Lost Time is different from Marcel Proust. (Gerard Genette proposes/borrows a term for this genre, “autofiction”.) This unclear demarcation between the hero and the author has led to critical reflections on the role of the author in his/her work. Foucault, in his famous essay “What Is an Author?”, argues that the author might be dead as Roland Barthes had pronounced, but that he/she still exerts great influence on the text and how we read the text. In Linguistics and Poetics, Roman Jakobson proposes two schemes of fundamental factors and functions. The author, i.e. addresser is an inseparable part of both schemes, with a corresponding function of emotive.

I believe that this research in intertextuality on these two levels is of importance in that it firstly exemplifies how cultural and social constructions and Western canons play crucial roles in literature, and secondly how the author’s traces in his/her work are still under debate in contemporary literary texts.

Chapter One: Theoretical Framework1.1 Intertextuality

The concept of intertextuality originates from twentieth-century linguistics. At the source of it stand Ferdinand de Saussure, Mikhail Bakhtin and Julia Kristeva.

Intertextuality has been approached by different linguists in different ways, from structuralism to post-structuralism. Kristeva claims that “every text is from the outset under the jurisdiction of other discourses which impose a universe on it” (Culler, 105).

In her opinion, from the very beginning, a text bears the broad corpus of the texts before it. However, intertextuality is not just restricted to the relationship between different texts and different authors, it also deals with the relationship between the author and the reader. As an analytical concept, it is of great importance since it puts an emphasis on the relationality and interconnectedness of texts and discourses in contemporary cultural life. Within the general context of literature, intertextuality weakens the presence and position of the author on the interpretation of his/her own texts, thus leaving enough space for the reader/critic to bring new meanings to every text and every author.

Kristeva proposes a model consisting of two axes for the analysis of texts - a horizontal axis connecting the author and the reader, and a vertical axis linking the text to other texts. On the horizontal axis, intertextuality questions the notion of authorship. Roland Barthes argues that “it is language which speaks, not the author; to write is...to reach the point where only language acts, ‘performs’, not ‘me’” (Barthes, 143). Because language precedes the author, there is no originality in authorship but constant representation in regard to writing. Thus the meaning of the text cannot be reduced to the pure intention of the author of the text; instead, meaning resides in the shared corpus of the authors who came before him/her. In his 1967 essay, “The Death of the Author”, Barthes declares the death of the author and the birth of the reader. He argues that “a text's unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (Barthes, 148).

Therefore, Barthes stands as one origin of the modern reader-response criticism, a school which focuses on the reader’s interpretation of the text. According to Barthes, every reading is at the same time a new rewriting of the text. It is the reader who helps construct the text so that the reader becomes the co-author in his/her own right. On one hand, the reader endows the author’s text with new meanings from his/her literary experience, while on the other hand, s/he is able to identify any text as “having been written before”. The author and the reader do not stand as separate entities here;

intertextuality examines their positions as both belonging to an intertextual web.

On Kristeva’s vertical axis, intertextuality problematizes the boundaries between different texts. Similar in this respect to the notion of the author, the text is also a shared corpus of the different texts that came before it. In some cases, its reference to other texts is obvious, while in other cases, the reference can be quite ambiguous and hard to discern. In Fredric Jameson’s view, this relationship of the text with other texts has great effect on both the reader and the author: “Texts come before us as the always-already-read; we apprehend them through the sedimented layers of previous interpretations, or - if the text is brand-new - through the sedimented reading habits and categories developed by those inherited interpretive traditions” (Rodowick, 286).

In Jameson’s opinion, we can never view a text as an independent entity, isolated from other texts. This inter-reference among various texts renders it possible for readers and critics to enrich the text with new meanings and new interpretations.

Apart from these general aspects, intertextuality also allies itself with other issues such as feminism or gynocriticism. Intertextuality allows us a new opportunity to re-examine female writers and their writings, potentially permitting them to enter the monologically male-dominated literary canon. Outside literature, intertextuality also exerts great influence in modern life with the profuse use of multiple media nowadays.

In the television industry, advertising business, and the World Wide Web, intertextuality plays an important role in combining different media to interact together. For instance, media companies, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation have been keen to adapt literary classics such as Jane Austen’s novels into television series so that television audience could appreciate literary works on the screen.

Meanwhile, French structuralists tackle intertextuality in a different way from Kristeva and Barthes. Gerard Genette proposes the term “transtextuality” as being more inclusive than “intertextuality”. He divides transtextuality into five sub-categories - intertextuality, paratextuality, architextuality, metatextuality, and hypertextuality. According to Genette’s taxonomy, intertextuality refers to the simultaneous presence of two texts or several texts, as well as the presence of one text within another; paratextuality is the relation between one text and its paratexts, such as titles and notes; architextuality examines one text with regard to the genre;

metatextuality is the commentary of one text on another; and finally, hypertextuality describes the relationship between one text and a previous text (Paratexts, xviii-xix).

These five sub-categories are interconnected to each other in that they inspect the various relationships between one text and other texts, and between a text and other contextual elements such as paratext and genre.

My thesis will be structured around two parts - firstly, paratextuality and hypertexuality (of which allegory can be considered as a specific form) following Genette’s classification and definition, and secondly the role of the author in relation to Barthes’s, Foucault’s and Genette’s discussions. In a broader sense, all these concerns are different aspects of intertextuality as defined by Kristeva and Barthes.

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