59 pages 1 hour read

Zadie Smith

Swing Time

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2016

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Literary Theory Context: Storytelling and Selfhood

In Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood, Italian writer and philosopher Adriana Cavarero theorizes about storytelling and selfhood with a focus on female-driven narratives. According to Cavarero, the ways that women appear in literature, particularly in literature written by women authors, echoes how they are socialized in real life. Women learn femininity from one another; coupled with intimate notions of sisterhood, this knowledge becomes a defense mechanism against the patriarchy. Many novels about women do not center on just one person. This is because women writers develop their female characters through their relations with other female characters.

Cavarero proposes that the impulse to tell stories is also the impulse to discover selfhood, which includes telling our own stories and listening to the stories of others. Storytelling thus allows women readers to search for evidence of their own selves in the stories of female characters. This dynamic is evident throughout Swing Time. The narrator is a woman searching for identity, but although the novel is told through her exclusive point of view, her story either develops or remains static in relation to the stories and selfhoods of the novel’s other female characters: The narrator develops herself in

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