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Title: Ambiguous and ambivalent signatures : rewriting, revision, and resistance in Emma Tennant's fiction
Author: Dunn, Jennifer Erin
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2007
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While existing criticism of Emma Tennant's work emphasizes its feminist agenda, less attention has been paid to her rewriting of different narratives and discourses. Tennant's career has centered on challenging literary values as well as generic categories, realist conventions, and gender stereotypes. Contrary to implications that rewriting is "re-vision," an "act of survival" that corrects or subverts earlier texts, this thesis argues that Tennant's characteristic resistance to categories also extends to the work of rewriting and revision. Her texts suggest that the act of "writing back" is not as straightforward as it may seem, but deeply ambiguous and ambivalent. Developing theories of the "signature" that return the writer-as-agent to the otherwise anonymous field of intertextuality, this thesis traces Tennant's figurations of writing, metafictional devices, and intertextual allusions to show how these relate to themes in the fiction. Examining groupings of the texts from different critical perspectives, each chapter shows how Tennant's rewritings destabilize notions of originality, identity, and agency, and represent political discourses and social progress in an ambivalent way. While this thesis offers very specific insights into Tennant's work, the close readings also encompass broader themes, such as feminism and postmodernism, the gothic, myths of home and exile, and the ventriloquistic techniques of pastiche and biofiction. The arguments centered on her work contribute to the larger discourse on rewriting in two ways. First, in problematizing assumptions that rewriting inherently strives toward progress or correction, this thesis argues that rewriting can dramatize the ambiguity and ambivalence that haunt acts of resistance. Second, in advancing challenges to the idea that intertextuality functions anonymously, it argues that rewriting can return agency to the text by offering representations of authorship that engage with literary and cultural history.
Supervisor: Byrne, Sandie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Criticism and interpretation ; Creation (Literary ; artistic ; etc.) ; Feminist fiction ; Fiction ; Technique