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Title: Romancing the reader : The reading subject in a selection of contemporary novels by women
Author: Carpenter, Ginette
ISNI:       0000 0004 2679 7150
Awarding Body: The Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis argues that the contemporary British novel by women is an arena of critical engagement and exchange that can be used for the assessment of the practice of reading and the figure of the reader. It contends that many of the debates about reading and the reader that have occurred in the literary academy, since the early 1970s, are being rehearsed and interrogated in contemporary fiction. The thesis brings into dialogue a variety of theoretical approaches to reading and the figure of the reader through an analysis of the reading subject and the subject of reading in a range of novels by women. The thesis insists upon positioning reading and readers as politically inscribed and is theoretically underpinned by an understanding of key critical debates in literary theory and feminist theory. The novels used for analysis explicitly represent the act of reading and readers and the thesis suggests that these novels might be labelled 'metareaderly' as they work to foreground and interrogate the practice that their reader is enacting. The first chapter is a survey of the theoretical debates that inform both the mapping of reading and the textual analysis of the subsequent chapters. It reviews some of the different ways in which reading and the figure of the reader have been critically understood. The remaining four chapters are detailed close readings of eight contemporary novels by women and there is a deliberate movement through the chapters from the literary to the popular. All the novels broadly adhere to the conventions of the romance and the textual analyses explicitly engage with the analogy between the romance of reading and the love affair. Chapter Two considers Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker (1996) and The PowerBook (2001) by Jeanette Winterson in relation to their differing evocations of the relationship between reader and author. Chapter Three discusses Possession (1990) by A.S. Byatt and Elizabeth Jane Howard's novel Falling (2000), and argues that in their mediation between the present and past both texts represent reading as an act of moral responsibility. Chapter Four considers the ways in which the text itself can work to re-read other texts by discussing two contemporary intertexts of Daphne du Maurier's middlebrow classic Rebecca: The Other Rebecca (1997) by Maureen Freely and Daphne (2008) by Justine Picardie. Chapter Five turns to genre fiction in assessing chick lit and its sub-genre mum-lit by means of an analysis of The Reading Group (2004) by Elizabeth Noble and Don't Try This at Home (2003) by Katie Pearson. The thesis concludes that the novels raise three key areas of debate: the seduction of the text; the responsibilities of the reader; the politics of reading. It argues that the self-consciousness of metareaderly texts works to attenuate the romance of reading by foregrounding reading as an ethical and political practice
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available