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Title: A feminist dialogic reading of the new woman : marriage, female desire and divorce in the works of Edith Wharton and Halide Edib Adıvar
Author: Elaman, Sevinc
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis examines the depiction of female characters as New Women in a comparative analysis of the fiction of two authors from fin-de-siècle United States of America and late Ottoman/early Republican Turkey: Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905), The Custom of the Country (1913) and The Age of Innocence (1920), and Halide Edib Adıvar’s Raik’in Annesi (Raik’s Mother, 1909), Handan (Handan, 1912) and Kalp Ağrısı (Heartache, 1924). It argues that these novels can be read as examples of New Woman fiction, with their challenge to conventional fictional treatments of womanhood and their depiction of complex female heroines struggling against restrictive social roles, conventions and moral codes. Examining these texts together opens up a hitherto unexplored area of comparison into how the construct of New Womanhood was perceived and dealt with differently (and similarly) in the American and Turkish societies of the era. The thesis brings a new approach to the analysis of the novels under question not only by reading Wharton’s and Adıvar’s fiction in a comparative perspective but also by approaching New Woman fiction by means of Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of dialogism, complemented by the work of feminist critics such as Dale M. Bauer, Gail Cunningham, Luce Irigaray and Lyn Pykett. A feminist dialogic approach informs my reading of the novels as texts that present a pluralistic exchange between multiple discourses and that resist a singular interpretation - instead offering multiple “readings”, with a surface narrative and counter narrative: whilst the surface narrative appears as authoritative and seeks to maintain the status quo (through voices that attempt to stabilise the New Woman and assert the authority of conventions and moral codes), this is disrupted and destabilised by the subversive marginal voices of the counter narrative. By attending in this way to the juxtaposition of a multiplicity of conflicting voices on the New Woman question in the texts - particularly as these are expressed in the heroines’ inner dilemmas and conflicts and around the issues of marriage, divorce and sexuality - I attempt to go beyond a reading of the texts as reflections of the biography of the authors or their views regarding a certain model of female identity, instead emphasising the problematisation and unfixing of identity in the novels and their depiction of New Women that are complex, fragmented and contradictory. Furthermore, influenced by the ideas of feminist thinkers such as Judi M. Roller and Elizabeth Bronfen, I propose that the unhappy endings of Wharton’s and Adıvar’s novels can be read as critiques of the oppressive effects of hegemonic discourses about women and a recognition of female agency and struggle. By examining these aspects of the novels, this comparative thesis aims to contribute to feminist studies focused upon the “woman question” and to the growing body of scholarly work on the New Woman.
Supervisor: Littler, Margaret; Bast, Oliver Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Edith Wharton ; Halide Edib Adivar ; New Woman ; Feminist Dialogics ; Bakhtin