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Title: Sexual trauma, psychosis, and betrayal in Antonia White's autobiographical fiction : a critical examination of the Freudian perspective
Author: Newton, Marcia Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 5348 4977
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2015
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In Catholic writer Antonia White’s series of autobiographical novels, Frost in May, The Lost Traveller, The Sugar House, and Beyond the Glass, readers are presented with a Freudian Oedipal drama that sends the main protagonist spiraling into psychosis and then back into her father’s arms upon recovery. This trajectory draws a parallel with White’s history. Literary critics and biographers on White have suggested that she was a victim of father-daughter incest. My aim in this thesis, however, is not to prove that White was a victim of sexual abuse. I seek to illustrate the limitations and possibilities of validating sexual trauma in autobiographical fiction using White’s diaries as scaffolding for this examination. This thesis is divided into four chapters. Chapter One is an analysis of a problematic Oedipal drama in White’s autobiographical fiction that leads to a proposed theoretical conundrum in psychoanalytical concepts of sexual trauma and psychosis. Chapter Two is a study of the form and theory of the autobiographical novel and the author-protagonist relationship. Also, at the intersection of psychoanalytic and literary theoretical paradigms, I explore the extent to which White’s metaphorical descriptions of psychosis generate a coherent depiction of self and lived traumatic experience within the confines of an Oedipal narrative. In so doing, I propose a space be carved for White’s experiences to be taken seriously as authentic expressions of trauma. Chapter Three explores larger socio-cultural patriarchal attitudes of women’s sexuality in which I draw parallels between Freud’s construction of the incest barrier and religious notions of female sexuality. In Chapter Four I juxtapose literary and clinical writings of contemporary trends on sexual trauma, memory, and betrayal to illustrate the shifts in focus and yet subtle presence of Freud’s Oedipus complex theory in Western society today.
Supervisor: Parry, Glenys Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available