Law, the Domestic and Sovereignty in Interwar Women's Writing
Research output: Thesis › Doctoral Thesis (monograph)
My Ph.D. examines women’s writing in the interwar period through a questioning of the boundaries between the public and private sphere as traditional masculine forms of power based on a system of sovereignty and law enter the domestic realm. I also consider how power might be reimagined abroad. I juxtapose works of popular fiction from E.M. Hull, Agatha Christie and Marie Belloc Lowndes with the modernist writers Sylvia Townsend Warner, Katherine Mansfield and Rebecca West. Like much popular fiction of the early twentieth century, the bestsellers I explore exist in a complex relationship with that of their “other” - modernism. Section One looks at the modernist short story writer Mansfield alongside Christie, the Queen of Crime. The conception of home, for both Christie and Mansfield, is always somewhat uncanny. My readings of sovereignty in Mansfield and Christie are very much underpinned by a notion of the domestic space which becomes permeable to the political sphere at certain times of crisis. By using Giorgio Agamben’s theory of bare life within the state of exception, I unpack the notion of how the public and private become conflated. In the uncanny domesticity which haunts the pages of both Mansfield and Christie, the category of femina sacra offers a more gender specific reading than that of homo sacer or bare life within which I examine the paradoxical notion of legalised murder. The two chapters of Section Two juxtapose Warner’s modernist fantasy novels with the popular desert romance novel of Hull. This section examines ways in which colonialism and imagined representations of colonial lands and the colonial “other” impacts on understanding of sovereignty and representations of power. Though apparently from two dissimilar literary worlds, Hull and Warner share a surprising affinity: I look at Warner’s imagined representations of colonial lands and the colonial other in terms of how these may impact on understandings of sovereignty and representations of power. I consider how the imagined space of her early novels is broadened to include the historical spaces of her later fictions. In the chapter on Hull I argue that representations of androgynous and cross-dressing women, a theme also apparent in Warner’s novels, allow for her heroines to inhabit positions of relative power in relation to their male counterparts. Section Three contrasts the modernist West with popular romance/psychological thriller writer Lowndes. Both writers also have a deep-seated concern with the domestic and its complex relationship with power and rule. Though neither of these authors are consciously writing within the Gothic tradition I draw on notions of this genre to explore the uncanny in relation to images of domesticity that find themselves tainted by the threat of murder. In this section I draw on Freudian psychoanalytic notions, both of the death drive and of das unheimliche, to unravel parallels between the works of these two authors specifically examining how representations of death and the recurrent notions of the opposing life and death drives can be read as enactments of the grand-narrative of sovereignty. Although my thesis is concerned with authors who were writing in and around the literary innovations characterised by the modernist movement, this is not a project about modernism in a straightforward sense; rather, I read somewhat marginal modernist figures alongside popular fiction writers who seem to function as auxiliary modernists. Whilst I am comparing the low-brow with the modernist I do not seek to place any value laden judgements on the relative literary merits of these works; though, on the whole, the popular fiction I examine takes a more conservative approach than that of its more innovative modernist counterparts, it still, at moments, disrupts expectations with its critical stance towards conceptions of sovereignty and law.
|Research areas and keywords||
Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY
|Award date||2011 Sep 13|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|
Defence details Date: 2011-09-13 Time: 14:00 Place: Newcastle University External reviewer(s) Name: McCracken, Scott Title: [unknown] Affiliation: Keele University ---