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Title: The literature of the boarding house : female transient space in the 1930s
Author: Mullholland, Terri Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 2727 2874
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis investigates a neglected sub-genre of women’s writing, which I have termed the literature of the boarding house. Focusing on unmarried women, this is a study of the alternative rooms ‘of one’s own’ that existed in the nineteen thirties: from the boarding house and hotel, to the bed-sitting room or single room as a paying guest in another family’s house. The 1930s is defined by the conflict between women’s emerging social and economic independence and a dominant ideology that placed increased importance on domesticity, the idea of ‘home’ and women’s place within the familial structure. My research highlights the incompatibility between the idealised images of domestic life that dominated the period and the reality for the single woman living in temporary accommodation. The boarding house existed outside conventional notions of female domestic space with its connotations of stability and family life. Women within the boarding house were not only living outside traditional domestic structures; they were placing themselves outside socially and culturally defined domestic roles. The boarding house was both a new space of modernity, symbolising women’s independence, and a continued imitation of the bourgeois home modelled on rituals of middle-class behaviour. Through an examination of novels by Elizabeth Bowen, Lettice Cooper, Stella Gibbons, Storm Jameson, Rosamond Lehmann, Dorothy Richardson, Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, and E. H. Young, this study privileges the literary as a way in which to understand the space of the boarding house. Not only does the boarding house blur the boundaries between public and private space, it also challenges the traditional conceptions of the family home as the sole location of private domestic space. I argue that by placing their characters in the in-between space of the boarding house, the authors can reflect on the liminal spaces that existed for women both socially and sexually. In the literature of the boarding house, the novel becomes a site for representing women’s experiences that were usually on the periphery of traditional narratives, as well as a literary medium for articulating the wider social and economic issues affecting the lives of unmarried women.
Supervisor: Beasley, Rebecca Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; boarding house ; women's writing ; 1930s ; Elizabeth Bowen ; Lettice Cooper ; Stella Gibbons ; Storm Jameson ; Rosamond Lehmann ; Dorothy Richardson ; Jean Rhys ; Virginia Woolf ; E. H. Young