Resurfacing the Disappeared: The Author in Fish-Hair Woman by Merlinda Bobis

Abstract

The subject of my paper is the author. I aim to explore how the self-conscious author functions in Fish-Hair Woman (2012), a metafictional novel by Merlinda Bobis. I begin with a brief discussion of how the author is constructed, first, in Philippine literary criticism, and second, in light of the collapse of the humanist tradition of valorizing the writer, which prompted the proclamation of the author’s “death” and rendered her irrelevant to the text and to criticism. But does the author stay dead? In metafiction, in particular, the author manages to “write” herself into the text using self-consciousness. I find that, while it is impossible to overlook the author’s decentered status, it is equally untenable to ignore how an overt “manifestation” of the author functions within the text.
Through my reading of Fish-Hair Woman, I attempt to examine how the author’s self-consciousness results in two seemingly contradicting implications. On the one hand, the author’s constant references to herself allows her to “live” through the text, reinforcing the Barthesian notion that the author limits the text and its possible interpretations. On the other hand, the author’s constant references to herself as a subject exposes the author’s own limitations. This, in turn, “re-opens” the text, by giving room to questions about other perspectives that are not or cannot be represented in the text.