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Title: The female historical novel 1918 : the body, boundaries and social space
Author: McNamara, Sallie.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3388 6192
Awarding Body: University of Portsmouth
Current Institution: University of Portsmouth
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis considers the work of three female historical novelists in the period 1918-1945, Georgette Heyer, Norah Lofts and Lady Eleanor Smith. This is an in depth study of a hitherto neglected area. Previous studies fail to account for the differences between women's writing in the period and the complexities of the historical genre as disseminated by popular writers. It considers developments in the historical novel, and focuses on the way in which some women writers specialised in the genre and used it as a way of interrogating contemporary anxieties about sexual and social identities. It argues there is a relationship between the writer's social class and their representation of specific historical periods. The thesis is eclectic in the methodologies it deploys, and combines close textual analysis with contextual work. It draws on techniques of literary narrative analysis; its explanatory models are drawn primarily from anthropology and the sociology of culture. The work of the three authors is located within the specific conditions of the interwar literary context, including publishing and critics as well as the literary environment. They are also contextualised by reference to debates around notions of `the popular', and middlebrow fiction. The thesis looks at the specific historical concerns for women and for feminism, and how historical fiction comments on contemporary gender issues. It suggests these writers are preoccupied by the notion of social space and its boundaries, and they interrogate issues concerning the body and identity, sexuality, and class. The thesis asks how specific ideas such as narcissism, the male gaze or female surveillance help to deconstruct the eroticisation of heterosexual difference in the fictions. It argues historical fiction employs textual strategies such as the textual masquerade and specific tropes (i. e. Victorian, Regency) to secure the play in identity and sexuality. The textual pleasures offered by historical fictions to interwar female audiences are examined to consider whether they are conservative or transgressive, and suggests they offer multiple and diverse readings. The thesis shows how historical fictions invoke hierarchies of the past in order to comment on, or avoid, tensions arising from contemporary interwar structures.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available