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Title: 'Books of life' : a reassessment of the work of Carol Shields
Author: Ramon, Alex.
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis offers a comprehensive reassessment of the fiction and criticism of Carol Shields. It aims to present her work as less "domestic" and "celebratory" and more expansive and equivocal than has sometimes been recognised, and to re-address elements which have been under-explored in previous scholarship. Close attention is paid to formal and thematic liminality, stylistic experimentation, intertextuality, subversions of historiography, and Canadian contexts, as well as to texts which have previously received very little analysis, such as Shields's poetry collections. The study is also the first to draw extensively on manuscript materials which give a valuable insight into her working methods and extend debate about her experiments with narrative perspective and genre-mixing. An introductory chapter places the study in the context of work previously undertaken on Shields~s fiction. Emphasising the complexity of her portrayals of family dynamics, her early texts are then assessed through Lacanian concepts of alterity in order to explore the central tension between alienation and connectedness developed in this apprentice work. A study of Various Miracles (1985) and Swann (1987) examines these texts~ combination of post modem narrative "play" with a realist commitment to character construction and moral issues. A study of the interplay of different language registers follows, and reveals that the deployment of dialogue in Shields's work challenges the alleged limitation of its social scope. Extant analyses of Shields's "use and abuse" of autolbiographical convention are extended by tracing her development of The Stone Diaries (1993) and Larry's Party (1997) through their multiple manuscript revisions and transformations of personal biography. Finally, a study of Shields's last three texts demonstrates that these generically disparate final works are linked thematically by an inquiry into the Canadian trope of survival.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available