'An archaeology in search of a utopia' : reading women's writing of the interwar years in the light of Kristeva's concept of the third space
Julia Kristeva's 1979 essay, 'Le temps des femmes', translated as 'Women's Time' in 1981, most explicitly articulates her approach to feminist thought, addressing women's troubled relationship to patriarchy in terms of time and space. In the essay, Kristeva identifies three distinct positions in the history of feminism: 'equality' feminism, 'difference' feminism; and finally, an anticipated 'third-generation' feminism that will integrate the previous two attitudes, representing what she defines as a new 'signifying space'. The value of the 'third space' is that is offers a method for proceeding beyond the either/or status offered by previous stages of feminist thought and analysis, challenging gender identity per se, and bringing out of the singularity of each individual subject. Women's literature of the interwar period provides a rich source of material in terms of the construction of the gendered subject, as political and military pressures transformed masculine and feminine roles. While literary giants such as Sassoon and Faulkner have committed the experience of the trenches to print, women's writing of this era often explores the effects of the First World War on the community at home, away from the front and its visceral nightmares. This thesis therefore examines the destabilising effect of war on both combatants and civilians as evident in this writing, and each chapter identifies a space in the text where identity is challenged and thrown into debate by the hardships of the War. The resulting signifying space is configured in varying ways, often bringing happiness and personal satisfaction to the protagonist, but it may also represent the darker aspects of Kristevan thought, resulting in negativity and even death.