The Picaresque Voice of Bare Life: Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird

The Picaresque Voice of Bare Life: Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird Abstract: This essay explores the juridico-political framework of Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird and the ways in which the novel’s narrative structure supports and undermines this framework. With reference to Giorgio Agamben’s work, it traces the concepts of the biopolitical body (bare life), state of exception, and sovereignty in how the novel dramatizes the relation between victim and perpetrator in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. Within this context, it singles out the notion of the homo alalus (speechless human) as a specific kind of bare life and discusses its functions in the novel. The picaresque voice reflects both the muted voice of the victim and the self-assertive voice of memory. Kosinski uses the picaresque template to articulate this dual voice as an art of giving testimony to bare life. This testimonial appropriation of the picaresque template can be read as a challenge to Agamben’s overdetermination of the concepts of bare life and sovereignty. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies Purdue University Press

The Picaresque Voice of Bare Life: Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird

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Publisher
Purdue University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Purdue University.
ISSN
1534-5165
Publisher site
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Abstract

Abstract: This essay explores the juridico-political framework of Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird and the ways in which the novel’s narrative structure supports and undermines this framework. With reference to Giorgio Agamben’s work, it traces the concepts of the biopolitical body (bare life), state of exception, and sovereignty in how the novel dramatizes the relation between victim and perpetrator in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. Within this context, it singles out the notion of the homo alalus (speechless human) as a specific kind of bare life and discusses its functions in the novel. The picaresque voice reflects both the muted voice of the victim and the self-assertive voice of memory. Kosinski uses the picaresque template to articulate this dual voice as an art of giving testimony to bare life. This testimonial appropriation of the picaresque template can be read as a challenge to Agamben’s overdetermination of the concepts of bare life and sovereignty.

Journal

Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish StudiesPurdue University Press

Published: Sep 13, 2012

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