Two scholarly papers on Brainard’s Novel MAGDALENA by Rhodora G. Magan
“The first one, entitled Cecilia Manguerra Brainard’s Oriental Oriental ” Magdalena” : A Linguistic Reinvention, was published in GSTF Journal of Law and Social Science (JLSS) Vol. 4 No. 2, October 2015 — see abstract and excerpts below.
The second is entitled “Eve and Her Beings: A Chopin-Brainard Simulation” delivered at the Asian Conference on Literature & Librarianship, April 2–5, 2015 in Osaka, Japan .
Cecilia Manguerra Brainard’s Oriental Oriental “Magdalena”: A Linguistic Reivention
Abstract— Critical at this point in the postmodern society is ‘an idea’ nuanced in myriad voices. This paper contends that in the Philippine context there may be very little room for this type of linguistic exploration but is enough to exhibit the existing engagement of writers with the never-ending phenomenon of interpretation, that is, a particular meaning is contingent to one’s “situational frame”. Simply put, two similar structures/codes/words are associated with multiple meanings. More so, these modes of interpretation will eventually affect one’s capacity to assign an array of codes to build upon the very image one intends to create. In this paper Magdalena in Cecilia Manguerra-Brainard’s Magdalena is thought to be the embodiment of the Biblical Magdalena sought to be determined by linguistic limitations in the context of the author herself. She is exactly the very image of a woman that the author, in her capacity, would wish to create given her own situational frame—-her milieu. Likewise, as the reader engages himself with the text, another frame is recreated so that the meaning becomes ultimately unstable in a continuous regression. Meaning-making incidence is primordially seen in this study as the crux of the matter by which different ‘situational frames’ can be understood as such. The character, Magdalena, is seen in that respect as it largely depends on how such relations are created between the signifier and the signified. Dwelling much on Saussure’s perspective, the meaning that is evidently explored which gives Magdalena ‘the identity’ is not only drawn from the characteristics nor from her inner sensibility as a person but from the intricate connections that surround the perceived object of woman through which binary oppositions are thought to emerge…”
(Excerpt 1) In Cecilia Manguerra-Brainard’s novel, the language proves Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism in the narrative’s portrayal of women whose descriptions are the results of the author’s perceptions founded on the experiences from years passed. This element of narrativity allows her to uncover the intricate events that connect three powerful women in this war novel such that it can be observed the display of prowess in wielding language of independence and controversy in different milieus. The varying tones and degrees of their experiences are all weaved into a distinctive fabric that redefines woman such that from the biblical archetype it proceeds to have taken the role of a character accessorized by the whims of another civilization.
In the light of the above creativity, the credit goes to the processural nature of simeosis which Parmentier (27) succinctly believes to have implied:
an inherent asymmetry in what can be termed the level of simeosis between the vector of determination and the vector of representation.
The concept highlights the capability of the
‘representamen’ to correspond to the object (original) in many ways. This opens doors for innovations thus obliterating the concept of mere replication which is only confined to the known characteristics of a certain thing that serve as pattern. Apropos the necessary alterations of perceptions which bring out this principle of asymmetry, Baudrillard (6) asserts that such practice lends stability to the concept called “hyperreality” which by definition is brought about by infinite regress, that being mainly characterized by a lack of fixed point of reference.
(Excerpt 2) Toward the end, Brainard chooses to further her case with justifications of certain issues involving women. Her choice of ending the narrative in a way that one can least suspect parallels that with the new context (liberal) that she designs for her characters to operate upon. With an unpredictable ending, one is led to asking the intent of the author in not revealing the key to Juana’s father’s happiness:
“For a moment I was tempted to confess to him that Magdalena was his daughter, but there was too much ground to cover, too many lives that would be upturned; and so I remained quiet, as I had these past twenty-seven years.”
The implications of her language at the end are clearly manifestations of an erudite writer who creates room for her readers to appropriately end it the way they ought to. A monologue at the end is a sign that before one returns the novel back to the shelf, at least, he is given access to the mind of one of the characters. No third-person “objective” narrator can influence any judgment one has for the novel in that everyone is free to interpret whatever he thinks about with respect to his experiences, beliefs and culture.
Likewise, select images embellish the whole text as if in a nutshell everything can be thoroughly explained (but will still depend on how each one views them). The novel with its unique plot encourages readers to go back and forth as flashbacks become so frequent that no present event is independent at all. Ironically, whichever chapter one begins to read there is that element of isolation that enables a particular chapter to stand on its own. This ultimately characterizes Brainard’s style of offering cross-sections of life to examine its complexity. This technique manifests the case of language which can be set apart from the rest, yet still prominent in its own dimension.
Brainard exhibits the unique craftsmanship that endows the text’s musicality inherent in poetry. The style can be hinted at the very basic interposing of words whose meanings reside beyond the literal level and whose sounds create rhythm beyond the monotony of daily discourse. Such lines are testaments of her ingenuity:
“She was bits and fragments of words and paper and cellulose—ethereal, a ghost ….”
“The sea beyond had settled into gentle lapping … and ribbons of gray smoke trickled ….”
“She feared the sensation of losing touch with reality, of disappearing into the heavens, of being one with Victor.”
“…was another stroke in the debit side of Fermin’s balance sheet in her heart.”
“He tastes of the sea this man. He is like a god risen from the sea.”
Figurative language such as consonance, personification, hyperbole, zeugma and simile enhances the way words are grouped together. There is more to each arrangement than meets the eye because the dynamism of meanings spring from it and myriad interpretations emanate from its vibrant texture. On the surface glare the words that constitute a story after another story whose plots are governed by the point of views of the firstperson and third-person narrators:
First person—“When I felt life within me, I felt it was time to turn their secrets into stories.”
“My grandmother lived to see me married—
happily, I might add.”
Third Person—“Luisa, invited Magdalena to lunch and spelled out some new details about Victor: he had a mistress; in fact they lived together in Mandawe….”
One voice in the prologue and epilogue sets the tone of indecision and decision. In between is another voice of an observer who apparently wants to enlighten “the perceivers” about the issues that build on one after another. This observer prevails in all of the chapters except in two accounts which means that the author succumbs to the objective retelling of events rather than what one participant might just feel throughout the time frame. Yet the fact that it is not a purely objective fictional construct does imply that one perspective is not enough.
This, too, is an indication of the lack of the fixed point of reference which gives way to the innovative reinvention of a context that transcends the original. The representation of multiple points of view contributes to the phenomenon of ontological uncertainty for having capitalized on the irregular flow or the destruction of the complacent perspective of order Predictable outcomes become a less likely occurrence once plot structure is disintegrated so that there arrives a “plotless” presentation of existential time. Erickson (103) purports that one dimension of this experience of time is “existential time”. It is ingredient both in experiencing of time and in time as it is experienced. To explore time is to look at it prior to an instance which is impossible if one says ‘time began’ because it can never have a beginning.
Designing the whole novel like a set of stories (not even a series of short stories), time appears to be dislodged from a specific point. The indispensability of the idea that time is independent heralds the unconventional narrative that goes beyond reality. Brainard’s style is one of unusual indetermination of what comes next along with language structures’ inevitability to take new forms over time. The oriental attitudes take on the form of varying tones of structure that surround the concept of woman represented by Magdalena…
(Excerpt 3) CONCLUSION: Magdalena is the product of the “unstable signified” that asserts authority over the simulacrum that it has created. The simulacrum in turn asserts the same linguistic characteristic that assumes more power than the predecessor. The quality governing its existence is highly dependent upon the
“situational frame” of the author and eventually upon that of the reader’s, which Rimmon-Kenan (qtd. in Hoffmann 122) understands as a frame to “reduce indeterminacies” of the world by giving them “form”. Consequently, the more it reduces such the more that these propensities flourish to establish another taste, flavor, desire, behavior, and ultimate characteristics that define another creation propelled by the determination of language to innovate.
The reader (which includes the author herself being the first-hand reader) does not react passively to the narrative but activates his own potential to innovate the “form”. With more than just replication, “the perceiver” exercises and strengthens his exclusive or contextual treatment of a text. This gives him power to either give justice to certain issues in the text or condemn any element in it.
From the aforesaid perspectives on the functionality of language, Magdalena is most probably understood as belonging to the Biblical domain given the context that basically draws many of its practices from the Bible. The Philippines as a religious nation, therefore, creates different levels of conception. The union of interaction, context, performance, and culture conclude this understanding of language power (Duranti and Goodwin 1992).
Magdalena has been existing in millions of oriental discourses that foster clarity as to her real purpose in the society. The term “Magdalena” per se signals for ballistic targets directly to the minds of individual members of the group that now reflects the Filipino psyche—-the prevailing thought towards Filipino women who despite being indecisive continues to take control of what is left in her possession. The oriental side elides the fear and lack of determination. Society then engulfs the new thought as language deems it to be as dramatic as possible when it comes to shaping the universal consciousness.
Wielding power also comes with symbol and style which in this study lend gravity to the effect the text intends to create. The relationship with which these two are drawn is explicated in a way that the development of the latter depends heavily on the dynamism of the former. Both are gleaned from the surface as chimeras that cast light on the ulterior direction of the text– the “Magdalena” undergoes a transformation with respect to its new situational frames (the author’s and the reader’s).
Bio of Rhodora G. Magan:
Rhodora G. Magan, DALitcom, has been a resident language, literature, and communications instructor at the Cebu Technological University Cebu City Campus since 2010 and a lecturer in the Graduate School three years hence. Along with the responsibility to impart knowledge to students is her great interest in several local, national and paper presentations that build her the habit of accessing a repertoire of literary expressions and perspectives. From being a prolific researcher she takes on the identity of a writer. Despite the rising techniques in the postmodern era they never impede The Cottage, the entry submitted to an international body, to be appreciated as it bears exuberance of local color weaved in a significant way. Her determination to succeed in different fields is recently proven in her first authorship along with three others in the university. The publication of New Literatures: New Texts, New Voices, New Perspectives speaks of her dedication to educate learners on the thriving literary texts across timelines. Rhodora Magan is an educator, a researcher and a fictionist.
Tags: Filipino women, Filipino literature, Filipino novels, Philippine literature, Philippine fiction, Filipino books, Philippine books