This article reads the vocabulary of “being” scattered throughout Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl as exposing the ontological dispossession underlying the economic and political abandonment of the poor. The Girl’s search for a way “to be,” however, also disrupts the economy of representation by which the state monitors and assesses, through a rhetoric of uplifted subjectivity, the behaviors of the women who depend on state relief programs. In The Girl, homeless women’s discovery of forms of being within precarious living conditions constitutes an ontological repossession through which Le Sueur imagines alternative feminist socioeconomic structures and, by extension, alternative forms of subjectivity that emerge within subrepresentational spaces.
Abandoned Being: The Aesthetic of Inhabiting in Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl
Clare Callahan is assistant lecturer at Sacred Heart University. Her research interests include representations of poverty and feminist spaces in modern to contemporary American literature. Her current book project examines the relationship between dispossession and subjectivity through “inhabiting”—the subject’s making space to live where space has been withheld due to processes of marginalization. She also has work forthcoming in American Literature.
Clare Callahan; Abandoned Being: The Aesthetic of Inhabiting in Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 September 2021; 67 (3): 317–344. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-9373746
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