An Analysis Of Aesthetic Distance In Louise Erdrich's 'Shadow Tag'

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In the novel Shadow Tag, the author Louise Erdrich creates aesthetic distance in multiple layers. The character of Riel, the narrator, has “the gift of omniscience” (251) and exists as an artist, who combines her memories with her mother’s diaries in order to tell the story of her parents. Reality in this novel is ambiguous since shadows portray transcendence. Erdrich creates a world where truth and respect, what Irene desires, become ambiguous, and aesthetic distance becomes the beginning of the end for Gil and Irene’s existence. Even though Riel’s aesthetic distance from her story is not harmful, Gil’s distance from Irene exhibits hostility. As a multi-layered function in Shadow Tag, aesthetic distance causes an emotional gap for the characters since they struggle with personal relationships.
In The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray use multiple definitions to describe aesthetic distance. The first definition is usually “a separation between the audience and a work of art that is necessary for the audience to recognize
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He believes that distancing oneself from an artistic work allows for “subject-subject relations, not subject-object” relations (Emerson 637). The “subject-subject relation” concept parallels the scenes in Shadow Tag in multiple ways. First, Emerson observes Bakhtin’s idea on how an author distances him or herself from the hero, or main character, in a story, and he specifically says that the “author’s loving removal of himself […] from the field of the hero’s life, his clearing of the whole field of life for the hero and his existence” (Emerson

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