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Dislocation, Relocation, and the Position of the In-Between: Doris Lessing's In Pursuit of the English



Doris Lessing's In Pursuit of the English (1960) offers a view of the changing map of postwar London from the author's arrival in 1949. It describes the emotions Lessing experienced during the process of dislocation and relocation throughout her journey from South Africa to the United Kingdom. As a white immigrant, Lessing is both an insider and outsider. Her personal spatial experience and reconception of the history of London provide routes through which Lessing can resituate her identity as an English national and as a woman. Lessing conveys the ambiguity of her position through the narrator's embodied subject and spatial positioning throughout the journey. In In Pursuit, the narrator is situated in an "in-between position": a status of uncertainty or otherness. Elizabeth Grosz develops the concept of the in-between further and proposes that to reinvestigate the space of the in-between is to make culture more dynamic and move into the future. In this book, the narrator explores individuals with similar situations. They transit themselves from being the other to their own becoming through the reconstruction of relations. Lessing's characters regain a sense of being and recover from feeling dislocated in a devastated London through their memories and the stories that they tell. Williem Frijhoff and Susan Stanford Friedman have proposed that storytelling is crucial in the reconstruction of cultural memory. Lessing's life writing pieces together lost memories of the city and the everyday lives of locals. Even more, Lessing's depiction of women's community leads to the emergence of those women's new identity through their shared living experience and unique voices. Through an understanding of the relationships between insiders and outsiders, both Lessing and the people she meets in London are involved in the city's changing and progression.

Parallel abstracts



Friedman, Susan Stanford. Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter. Princeton UP, 1998.
Friedman, Susan Stanford. “Women’s Autobiographical Selves: Theory and Practice.” The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women’s Autobiographical Writings, edited by Shari Benstock, U of North Carolina P, 1988, pp 34-62.
Frijhoff, Williem. “Physical Space, Urban Space, Civic Space: Rotterdam’s Inhabitants and their Appropriation of the City’s Past.” Local Memories in a Nationalizing and Globalizing World, edited by Marnix Beyen and Brecht Deseure, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 27-50.
Gilroy, Paul. Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures. Serpent’s Tail, 1993.
Green, Susan. “Genre: Life Writing.” mETAphor, no. 2, 2008, pp. 50-55.