Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Bowen family systems theory and family disintegration in Tennessee Williams's drama
Author: Alzoubi, Najah Ahmad Fayiz
ISNI:       0000 0004 5924 1175
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
The thesis examines the American psychiatrist Murray Bowen’s major contribution to his profession, Bowen Family Systems Theory, as a literary-critical tool to interrogate the theme of family disintegration in Tennessee Williams’s early and middle plays written between 1945 and 1962. Both Williams and Bowen were writing in a specific intellectual and cultural context in terms of post-World War II attitudes towards the American family and its social function. Bowen theory understands family as an interrelated emotional system, in which a change in the functioning of one part of the system directly relates to changes in the whole system. I argue that we find a parallel to this in Williams’s plays: members of the family do not function separately, but within the context of the system that shapes their feelings, thoughts, and behaviour. The four chapters of the thesis pair eight of Williams’s major works using the eight interlocking concepts that form the basis of Bowen theory: chapter 1 examines differentiation of self and triangles in The Glass Menagerie (1945) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1947); in chapter 2, nuclear family emotional system and family projection process in Summer and Smoke (1948) and Period of Adjustment (1961); in chapter 3, multigenerational emotional process and sibling position in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959); and, in chapter 4, emotional cutoff and societal emotional process in Suddenly Last Summer (1958) and The Night of the Iguana (1962). Not only does Bowen help to elucidate a central theme of Williams’s writing, but the psychodynamics of therapy are reflected in Williams’s dramatic accounts of the plight of the mid-twentieth century family. In the introduction I argue that Bowen theory is a useful tool for the analysis of modern American literature, developing the ways in which psychoanalytical theory has been used by literary critics to gain a broader understanding of the group context of family life in the postwar period. This will be demonstrated through the four chapters, while the conclusion considers what Bowen offers to literary studies more broadly, and what the limitations of his theory might be.
Supervisor: Halliwell, Martin ; Graham, Sarah Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available