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Title: No place like home : the hotel in modernist women's writing
Author: Short, Emma
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2012
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Abstract:
My PhD explores the theme of the hotel in the modernist fiction of Jean Rhys, Katherine Mansfield and Elizabeth Bowen, and considers it alongside theories of place and the body in order to interrogate the ways in which this space challenges conceptions of home and belonging. The project reads the hotel as a particular type of space, as that which exists in between the public and the private, and looks at the ways in which modernist women writers use the liminal, in-between space of the hotel to think through and challenge gendered distinctions of the public and the private. More specifically, the project examines how these writers question ideas of home, belonging and exile through the distinct unhomeliness and impermanence of the hotel. My project concentrates on the interwar writings of Rhys, Mansfield and Bowen, all of whom share a background of a colonial birthplace followed by a subsequent relocation to the imperial centre of London, and whose own sense of home is therefore unstable. Finally, the project demonstrates conclusively how their tendency to situate their narratives within hotels reveals the committed engagement of these three writers to the central themes and concerns of modernism and modernity. My first chapter considers glamour, romance and adultery in the hotel in the novels and short stories of Rhys, Bowen and Mansfield, and engages with recent scholarship on interwar histories of women’s sexuality to understand the recurrence of such themes. The chapter posits the hotel as a distinctly modern space, in which the female protagonists of these novels find the freedom to explore their sexuality and their desires away from both the moral constraints of the home and the judgemental gaze of the public sphere. However, the chapter also considers the way in which the sense of impermanence within the hotel constructs it as a place of transition and dramatic,potentially troubling change. The second chapter examines the ways in which the hotel is depicted in a more sinister light as a place of entrapment and confinement. It is in this chapter that the unstable distinction between public and private space within the hotel is explored fully, and I engage with Foucauldian theories of surveillance to consider issues of exclusion and segregation based on gender and class backgrounds. This chapter also explores the themes of loneliness and isolation that such a reading highlights, and links these to ideas of modernist anomie and alienation. The third chapter moves to a more hopeful reading of the hotel, looking at the ways in which it is often portrayed as a hiding place in the writings of these authors, in which characters seek refuge from the rapid change and chaos of modernity. This chapter also further explores the ways in which the hotel room functions for many of the female protagonists as ‘a room of one’s own,’ a private space away from the demands of the domestic sphere. The chapter concludes with a reading of the hotel room as a retreat from the self, and engages with theories of trauma and loss to consider the spatial habits of these characters and the motivations behind them. This project provides a much needed reading of the unique and highly complex space of the hotel in modernist writing from the perspective of the female author and her characters, and asserts the importance of further critical work into the hotel as a key space of modernism and modernity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; Killingley Memorial Trust of Newcastle upon Tyne
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.566974  DOI: Not available
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