Journal of Romance Studies

Looking death in the ‘I’: Rosa Montero’s La función Delta as autothanatography

Journal of Romance Studies (2009), 9, (1), 31–45.

Abstract

The cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker claims that death denial is the fundamental motive of human behaviour, and that this denial occurs through heroic and symbolic immortality projects. Drawing on Becker’s theory, this article considers how the protagonist of Rosa Montero’s second novel, La función Delta (1981), deals with her own approaching death through the writing process. On the one hand, Lucía takes up the pen in order to repress her awareness of her ineluctable departure. Conversely, writing helps her to come to terms with her imminent end. When she tries to deny her awareness of death in order to curb anxiety, Lucía also negates consciousness of life, and represses the physical and relational aspects of her being. It is only when she comes to terms with her mortality that she can open herself up to alterity and appreciate her life, her body and other people. When she accepts herself as a mortal, corporeal, relational being, her writing becomes more fluid and her awareness of life more intense. This article identifies two conflicting tensions at play in Montero’s text: the nostalgic desire for unity, independence, autonomy and death denial, on the one hand (associated with the traditional model of autobiography, humanism and the memoir format), and the acceptance of fragmentation, plurality, transience and mortality, on the other hand (related to recent theories of autothanatography, postmodernism and the diary genre). Each of these narrative tendencies will be explored in relation to three principal issues of autobiography: embodiment, temporality and identity.

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Balena, Ashlee Smith (2007) ‘Loss, Death, Procreation and Writing in the Metaficitve Narrative of Rosa Montero’, PhD dissertation (University of North Carolina). Loss, Death, Procreation and Writing in the Metaficitve Narrative of Rosa Montero Google Scholar

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Barthes, Roland (1981) Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography Google Scholar

Bauman, Zygmunt (1992) Mortality, Immortality and Other Life Strategies (Cambridge: Polity). Mortality, Immortality and Other Life Strategies Google Scholar

Becker, Ernest (1971) The Birth and Death of Meaning (New York: Free Press). The Birth and Death of Meaning Google Scholar

Becker, Ernest (1997) [1973] The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press). The Denial of Death Google Scholar

Benstock, Shari (1988) ‘Authorizing the autobiographical’, in The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women’s Autobiographical Writings (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press), 10–33. Authorizing the autobiographical The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women’s Autobiographical Writings 10 33 Google Scholar

Berger, John (2003) Ways of Seeing [1972], in The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader: Visual Culture, ed. Amelia Jones (London: Routledge), 37–9. Ways of Seeing The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader: Visual Culture 37 9 Google Scholar

Blanchot, Maurice (1982) The Space of Literature, trans. and introd. Ann Smock (Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska Press). The Space of Literature Google Scholar

Brodzki, Bella and Celeste Schenck (eds) (1988) Life/Lines: Theorizing Women’s Autobiography (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press). Life/Lines: Theorizing Women’s Autobiography Google Scholar

Carter, Kathryn (2006) ‘Death and the diary, or tragedies in the archive’, in Journal of Canadian Studies 40.2 (Spring), 42–59. Death and the diary, or tragedies in the archive Journal of Canadian Studies 40.2 42 59 Google Scholar

Clack, Beverley (2002) Sex and Death: A Reappraisal of Human Mortality (Cambridge: Polity). Sex and Death: A Reappraisal of Human Mortality Google Scholar

Davies, Catherine (1994) Contemporary Feminist Fiction in Spain: The Work of Montserrat Roig and Rosa Montero (Oxford: Berg). Contemporary Feminist Fiction in Spain: The Work of Montserrat Roig and Rosa Montero Google Scholar

Derrida, Jacques (1985) The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation: Texts and Discussions with Jacques Derrida, ed. Christie V. McDonald, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Schocken Books). The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation: Texts and Discussions with Jacques Derrida Google Scholar

Eakin, John Paul (1998) ‘Relational selves, relational lives: the story of the story’, in True Relations: Essays on Autobiography and the Postmodern, ed. G. Thomas Couser and Joseph Fichtelberg (Westport CT: Greenwood Press), 66–86. Relational selves, relational lives: the story of the story True Relations: Essays on Autobiography and the Postmodern 66 86 Google Scholar

Eakin, John Paul (2001) ‘Breaking rules: the consequences of self-narration’, Biography 24.1, 113–27. Breaking rules: the consequences of self-narration Biography 24.1 113 27 Google Scholar

Egan, Susanna (1999) Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press). Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography Google Scholar

Egan, Susanna (2001) ‘The life and times of autothanatography’, in Workshop Discussion Papers: Pain and Suffering Interdisciplinary Research Network http://www.english.ubc.ca/PROJECTS/PAIN/DEGAN.HTM [accessed 21 December 2008]. Google Scholar

Escudero, Javier (2005) La narrativa de Rosa Montero: Hacia una ética de la esperanza (Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva). La narrativa de Rosa Montero: Hacia una ética de la esperanza Google Scholar

Florioin, Victor, Mario Mikulincer and Gilad Hirschberger (2003) ‘The existential function of close relationships: introducing death into the science of love’, Personality and Social Psychology Review 7.1, 20–40. The existential function of close relationships: introducing death into the science of love Personality and Social Psychology Review 7.1 20 40 Google Scholar

Freud, Sigmund (1920) Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 18 (London: Hogarth Press), 1–64. Beyond the Pleasure Principle 1 64 Google Scholar

Glenn, Kathleen (1988) ‘Reader expectations and Rosa Montero’s La función Delta’, Letras Peninsulares 1.1, 87–96. Reader expectations and Rosa Montero’s La función Delta La función Delta 1.1 87 96 Google Scholar

Gusdorf, George (1980) [1956] ‘Conditions and limits of autobiography’, in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press). Conditions and limits of autobiography Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical Google Scholar

Knights, Vanessa (1999) The Search for Identity in the Narrative of Rosa Montero (Lewiston NY: Edwin Mellen Press). The Search for Identity in the Narrative of Rosa Montero Google Scholar

Kurrik, Maire Jaanus (1979) Literature and Negation (New York: Columbia University Press). Literature and Negation Google Scholar

Lacan, Jacques (2002) ‘The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience’, in Écrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W. W. Norton), 1–7. The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience Écrits: A Selection 1 7 Google Scholar

Lejeune, Philippe (1982) ‘The autobiographical contract’, in French Literary Theory Today, ed. Tzvetan Todorov (Cambridge: University Press), 192–222. The autobiographical contract French Literary Theory Today 192 222 Google Scholar

Lejeune, Philippe (2001) ‘How do diaries end?’, Biography 24.1 (Winter), 99–111. How do diaries end? Biography 24.1 99 111 Google Scholar

Man, Paul de (1979) ‘Autobiography as de-facement’, in Modern Language Notes 94.5 (December), 919–30. Autobiography as de-facement Modern Language Notes 94.5 919 30 Google Scholar

Marcus, Laura (1994) Auto/biographical Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice (Manchester: Manchester University Press). Auto/biographical Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice Google Scholar

Miguel Martínez, Emilio de (1983) La primera narrativa de Rosa Montero (Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad). La primera narrativa de Rosa Montero Google Scholar

Miller, Nancy K. (1994) ‘Representing others: gender and the subjects of autobiography’, in Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 6.1, 1–27. Representing others: gender and the subjects of autobiography Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 6.1 1 27 Google Scholar

Montero, Rosa (1991) The Delta Function, trans. Kari Easton and Yolanda Molina Gavilán (Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska Press). The Delta Function Google Scholar

Montero, Rosa (1999) [1981] La función Delta (Madrid: Debate). La función Delta Google Scholar

Progoff, Ira (1975) At a Journal Workshop (New York: Dialogue House Library). At a Journal Workshop Google Scholar

Rainer, Tristine (1978) The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-guidance and Expanded Creativity (Los Angeles: JP Tarcher). The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-guidance and Expanded Creativity Google Scholar

Reed, Timothy (2003) ‘Mass Culture in Four Spanish Novels, 1982–1994’, PhD dissertation (Pennsylvania State University). Mass Culture in Four Spanish Novels, 1982–1994 Google Scholar

Stewart, Victoria (2005) ‘Holocaust diaries: writing from the abyss’, Forum for Modern Language Studies 41.4, 418–26. Holocaust diaries: writing from the abyss Forum for Modern Language Studies 41.4 418 26 Google Scholar

Tambling, Jeremy (2001) Becoming Posthumous: Life and Death in Literary and Cultural Studies (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press). Becoming Posthumous: Life and Death in Literary and Cultural Studies Google Scholar

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Kelly, Deirdre