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Title: (Im) Possibility of Reciprocation: Gift Economy in “Letter from an Unknown Woman"
Authors: Kuo, Betty
Keywords: gift studies;Georges Bataille;expenditure;reciprocity
Date: 2015-03
Issue Date: 2016-08-23 17:56:28 (UTC+8)
Abstract: This paper uses theories of gift economy to examine gift relationship in no gift giving can be wholly disinterested and no gift relationship can be
sustained without reciprocation.
the Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig’s novella “Letter from an Unknown
Woman.” Based upon the gift relationship, this paper further interprets love
relationship between the hero and the heroine. Marcel Mauss observes that
gift-giving, dictated by social rules, requires reciprocation. But Georges
Bataille considers that this reciprocity inherent in gift relationship is not
different from transaction. Instead, he uses the conception of expenditure to
explain the behavior of gift-giving. Gift, in Bataille’s view, should not be
interpreted as exchange but as loss free from calculation. Jacques Derrida, in
line with Bataille, regards the gift as impossible because the gift, once
recognized as reciprocal by obligation, is not gift any more. According to
Mauss’, Bataille’s and Derrida’s theories of gift, reciprocity becomes the key
factor for analyzing gift relationship.
Highlighting gift relationship, “Letter from an Unknown Woman”
dramatizes a first-person female narrator’s deathbed confession, which
contains her lifelong unrequited love for the addressee. Going against the
grain with conventional reading, this paper argues that the heroine is not
totally satisfied with such an unreciprocated relationship. She still demands
return, even though it is nothing but the hero’s memory of her. The heroine’s
contradictory attitude indeed reflects the contradiction of Bataille’s theory:
Relation: 文化越界,2(1),79-106
Cross-cultural Studies
Data Type: article
Appears in Collections:[文化越界 ] 期刊論文

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