Cultural constructs : the representation of femininity in the novels of Emma Tennant, Margaret Elphinstone, and Janice Galloway
This thesis proffers a detailed study, not an overview or a survey, of three contemporary Scottish women writers and six novels; moreover, the thesis attempts to decentre the Anglocentric British literary establishment. The primary theoretical approach drawn on in the analysis is feminism; the tenets of postcolonialism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, and the avant-garde are also integrated. Original and unpublished comments taken from personal interviews conducted with Tennant, Elphinstone, and Galloway are interwoven with textual interpretation throughout the thesis; this detailed new information confirms the critical conclusions drawn in all six novels. Chapter One reviews the field of Scottish literature and identifies a variety of critical approaches to the study of Scottish literature. At the same time, the review of literature defines a gap in the current field of research in Scottish literature and, in particular, Scottish women's writing. The chapter offers alternate critical approaches to Scottish literature and concludes with a brief overview of the six novels which make-up the thesis. Chapters Two, Three, and four offer in-depth examinations of Emma Tennant's novels The Bad Sister, Sisters and Strangers: A Mortal Tale, and Faustine. The analysis explores how Tennant exposes the way in which ideology and cultural institutions condition and limit women's access to positive female roles and self-hood. The discussion reveals how social discourses and the media construct women as powerless subjects who are often compelled to collude with their 'oppression'. An investigation into narrative techniques like orality and intertextuality discloses how Tennant calls into question the very nature of literature and how her writing offers a feminist postmodern challenge to conventional representations of womenhood and femininity in literature.