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    Called Back: Reading Backwards in Ali Smith

    Byrne, Eleanor ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1976-0897 (2024) Called Back: Reading Backwards in Ali Smith. Scottish Literary Review, 16 (1). pp. 23-43. ISSN 1756-5634

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    Abstract

    This article seeks to account for the relation between queer form and queer relations in two of Ali Smith’s novels: How to be both (2014) and Companion Piece (2022). Both texts share an experimental form that sutures two narratives that are distinct in time and place. This article argues that there is something specifically queer about this narrative strategy via discussions of Judith Butler, Eve Sedgewick, and Mary Capello. Through a close reading of poststructuralist modes of dorsality as they relate to queer theory, it traces the way that a series of tropes of backward movements and backward embraces present in queer theoretical work by Heather Love, Carolyn Dinshaw and Elizabeth Freeman are rehearsed and further developed in Smith’s texts, which mobilise the radical queer potential of the back through the exploration of a multiplicity of meanings of backs and backwardness, and the backward embrace, as material and metaphorical articulations of queer desire. This paper also argues that by offering a radical investigation into narrative’s limits and borders, the later novel, Companion Piece, performs an investigation into the possibility of a queer Scottish form/ formalism that reflects on Smith’s recently completed Seasonal quartet, reaching back to assert a rich inheritance of a cosmopolitan Scottish experimental writing and formalism that has been brought to bear on her state of the nation novels.

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