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Title: 'Another world,/its walls are thin' : psychosis and Catholicism in the texts of Antonia White and Emily Holmes Coleman
Author: Wells, Sherah Kristen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2694 0244
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis seeks to destabilize many of the hierarchical boundaries established by the recent critical projects surrounding “female modernism” and “middlebrow” fiction by highlighting two authors, Antonia White and Emily Holmes Coleman, who have been neglected precisely because their works challenge the boundaries of these literary classifications. The thesis suggests that White’s and Coleman’s texts seemingly defy this categorization specifically through the portrayal of psychosis, the threat and experience of which permeates their texts and the way in which this impacts the construction of female subjectivity. “Female modernism”, “middlebrow” fiction, and “fictions of madness” often appear to be at odds with one another, but a close examination of White’s and Coleman’s texts suggests that these boundaries are not impermeable. Chapters One and Two seek to contextualize White’s and Coleman’s texts within these critical arguments and gesture towards the following chapters which demonstrate the extent to which these texts are specifically concerned with testing and exploring boundaries in the formation of female subjectivity, specifically through the experience of psychosis. It is their alternating acceptance of and challenge to these boundaries which contributes to the mis-placement of their texts within literary classifications. Chapters Three, Four, and Five explore the fortification and dissolving of the boundaries of female subjectivities as represented in White’s and Coleman’s texts. Chapter Three examines the relationship between mother and daughter in the texts specifically through the process of maternity. It argues that the process of maternity challenges female subjectivity in such a way that is best understood if it is contextualized within Julia Kristeva’s conception of the abject. Chapter Four addresses the textual representation of psychosis as a dissolution of subjectivity which is analysed using the theories of Luce Irigaray. Chapter Five acts as a counter-balance to this by exploring the ways in which female subjectivity is positively constructed in the texts, specifically through the presentation of Catholicism. In combination, each of these thematic elements which explore and test various boundaries result in a body of texts which defy the boundaries of “female modernism”, the “middlebrow”, and “fictions of madness”. The thesis concludes by suggesting that it is those texts which were written in the 1950s and therefore contain elements which are characteristic of the culture of that decade which present the greatest problem for the categorization of these texts. It suggests that the literature of this decade, particularly literature written by women, deserves greater consideration to separate it more fully from the existing literary classifications which struggle to contain it.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: American Study and Student Exchange Committee (ASSEC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BR Christianity ; BF Psychology ; PS American literature