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Crafting the Needle: Text(ile)-Image Constellations in Contemporary North American Fiction and Art

Author Malaika SUTTER
Director of thesis Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rippl
Co-director of thesis Prof. Dr. Janet Catherine Berlo
Summary of thesis

A needlework piece from the Tiny Pricks Project (2018–) juxtaposes neatly stitched delicate, romantic

flowers with Donald Trump’s misogynistic words ‘grab ‘em by the pussy.’ Such combinations of text

and image in the form of needlework (i.e. embroideries, quilts, and fabric collages) appear in a

considerable number of contemporary North American art pieces and prose texts. Neither canonical

(e.g. Toni Morrison’s Beloved [1987] and Faith Ringgold’s story quilts [1989–]) nor recent works (e.g.

Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments [2019] and the Tiny Pricks Project) have been analyzed in terms of

their use of intermedial aesthetic strategies. Generally, intermediality is concerned with “any

transgression of boundaries between media” (Wolf 2005: 252). This interplay of media can open “a

space of semiotic and material in-between-ness” that allows readers to perceive the world differently,

thereby challenging epistemologies (Neumann 2015: 513). As both a source of oppression and a means

of resistance, needlework can expose and question dominant ways of seeing the world. This study

explores: (1) the perception and rhetorical potential of needlework in prose texts and visual art; (2) their

intermedial appearance and functions; (3) the relationship of text and image in the primary sources; (4)

the implications for art history and literary studies; and (5) a reading practice for the analysis of what I

will call ‘text/ile-image constellations.’1 This project deploys a close reading that equally addresses text

and image. My hypotheses are that needlework and the representation thereof in contemporary North

American fiction serve as new intermedial constellations (1) to question familiar ways of knowing the

world; (2) to expose and subvert the male gaze and the white gaze; (3) to form (women’s) communities; and (4) to offer

alternative historiographies and conceptions of identities.

Status middle
Administrative delay for the defence 2024/2025