"The individual is the one illusion" : perception and reality in Marguerite Young’s Miss MacIntosh, my darling
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Inspired by Rita Felski’s notion of the “postcritical,” this paper asks what it means to stand in front of, rather than behind a text. How does a text dictate its own terms of interpretation, and how does a critic remain sensitive to those demands? Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, the 1965 tome by Marguerite Young, serves as both model and inspiration for these questions. This paper traces several lines of theoretical inquiry through the text: reader response criticism, affect theory, and a posthumanist new materialism. The critical theories reveal the central tension in the text: that between the real and fictional, the material and the illusion. Through aligning the analysis to a mood of curiosity, this paper explores the ways in which the novel constructs an ethics of reading grounded in attention, responsibility, and attunement to nonhuman agencies. From its obsession with illusion and reality, Miss MacIntosh, My Darling ultimately argues for the dissolution of boundaries between the real and the illusion, and between separate bodies and spheres.