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Title: 'This loose, drifting material of life' : experiments in nineteenth and twentieth-century life writing
Author: Regis, Amber Kay
Awarding Body: Keele University
Current Institution: Keele University
Date of Award: 2009
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Reading life writing as textual performance, this thesis identifies and explores different permutations of "experiment" in nineteenth and twentieth-century life writing. I trace the response of multiple "acts" of (self-) representation to conflicting socio-cultural discourses; to existing "rules" of genre and form; and to extant narratives and texts. The diversity which results-texts written within and against prevailing traditions-presents a challenge to linear, progressive models of development in life writing. The canon is unsettled: "conventional" texts are subject to new readings which emphasise the experiment of dealing with complex subjectivity; the term "life writing" expands to include seemingly mutually-exclusive forms, such as fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose; while the intersection between narratives and texts reveals a complex, contested relationship that results in mutable, responsive forms. As such, this research participates in a current trend towards inclusiveness in life-writing criticism, going beyond the recovery of silenced voices (axes of gender, race and sexuality having diversified the canon) and petty-order narratives, such as letters and diaries. Reading for "experiment" reveals the need for a more complex understanding of life writing and its practices. Notions of performativity and responsiveness suggest a non-linear model of development, alternating between regulation, revision and experiment. My thesis develops this argument through readings of six key texts: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1856); Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857);. John Addington Symonds's Memoirs (1889/1984); Nigel Nicolson's Portrait of a Marriage (1920/1973); and Virginia Woolf's Orlando (1928) and Roger Fry (1940).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available