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Title: 'Writing through the flowers' : challenges to epistolary tradition in letters from the Gulag (1930-38)
Author: Derksen Siemens, Ruth E.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3422 6567
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2008
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When literary critics examine letters, they focus mainly on epistolary fiction and fictional letters. Few have considered actual letters embedded in authentic socio-cultural contexts. In this thesis, I examine a corpus of 461 letters written by thirty-three family groups of Russian Mennonites (1930 to 1938) from villages and Gulag prison camps within the former Soviet Union. Chapter One is an examination of the socio-historical background of the writers of the letters, their locations, and their motivations. Chapter Two investigates, more specifically, the way the writers wrote, their genre conventions, and their departures from them. Chapter Three utilizes a database management system to study the writers' particular concerns, expose linguistic and generic features, and assess letters with masked messages. Chapter Four conducts a linguistic pragmatic analysis that explores the ways language . reflects the circumstances in which the writers' words were produced. Philosophical assertions and linguistic principles offered by Mikhail Bakhtin, Valentin Voloshinov, Karl Buhler, M.A.K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan, Stephen Levinson, H. Paul Grice, and others provide a guide to understanding the way in which the writers communicate and mis-communicate their messages 'through the flowers.' Chapter Five considers some of the challenges associated with a diverse audience and further difficulties raised by available theoretical and philosophical approaches. The role of the censor as reader is particularly complex, and this chapter exposes some of the ways the writers attempt to circumvent this hostile reader. In conclusion, the purpose of this thesis is not to offer solutions; it is not to solve the problem of the 'flowers' and the words that slip between them. My purpose is to expose the challenges to the epistolary tradition that have become evident through an analysis of a corpus of letters written during a time of terror in the former Soviet Union.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available