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Title: Moving dangerously : desire and narrative structure in the fiction of Elizabeth Bowen, Rosamond Lehmann and Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Author: Rau, Petra-Utta.
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis explores how constructs of gender and sexual identity in both psychoanalytic and fictional writing between the wars affect the fonn and structure of a text. The keen interest Bowen, Lehmann and Townsend Warner show in mental processes and patterns of sexual development, allows us to read across psychoanalytic and fictional discourses and rigid genres. While the psychoanalytic texts utilise elements of the Bildungsroman, the fictional narrative often enacts the pathologies of the story in an erotics of fonn. The intersection of scientific and narrative discourses coincides with a modernist debate about the limitations of conventional modes of representation in Edwardian and realist texts. The shifts between earlier modernist gestures of moving away from realist modes and structures and a later return to a more conciliatory approach of utilising them for modernist agendas, can be interpreted as a specific anxiety of origins. Shifting between modernist and realist modes of writing, and between nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century concepts of sexuality and gender produces peculiarly hybrid texts which negotiate this anxiety in various fonns of ambivalence and in-between-ness. Through the examination of six novels by Rosamond Lehmann, Elizabeth Bowen and Sylvia Townsend Warner, the thesis examines this anxiety in the difficulties psychoanalytic and fictional texts have in talking about the maternal, placing them in the context of socio-cultural ambiguities about femininity and motherhood during the interwar period. The thesis opens with a discussion of the possibilities and limitations of crossing between post-structuralist, psychoanalytic and historicist readings of modernist texts and provides a brief biographical framework for the three women writers in so far as it relates to gender, sexuality and the maternal. The following six chapters are divided into two parts grouping the first novels against the mature work in order to trace changes in the ways of representing sexuality, gender and maternal ambivalences through form, plot and structure. The first part discusses Rosamond Lehmann's Dusty Answer (1927), Elizabeth Bowen's The Hotel (1927) and Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Will owes (1926), while the second part examines The Weather in the Streets (1936), The Death of the Heart (1938) and Summer Will Show (1936) retaining the order of authors. The conclusion summarises the findings, contemplates its implications for the discourse on modernism and broaches the divergencies of Bowen's, Lehmann's and Warner's fictions in the 1940s.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modernism; Feminism; Gender; Sexual identity Literature Mass media Performing arts