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Title: Self and society in Mary McCarthy's writing
Author: Sagorje, Marina
ISNI:       0000 0004 6353 0084
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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My thesis analyses the oeuvre of the American writer Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), with the focus on the figure of the outsider looking in. McCarthy uses outsider figures in her texts as prisms through which distinctive historical moments as well as problems of gender, race and religion are studied against the backdrop of the changing climate of the American 'red' 1930s, the anxious '50s, and the late '60s torn by the Vietnam war. Examples of McCarthy's recurring protagonists are the New York Bohemian girl of the '30s in the predominantly male world marred by the Great Depression, the Jewish character stereotyped as the Other by the poorly hidden anti-Semitism of the American society of the early 1940s, and the orphan child exposed to adult cruelty, who finds her only solace in the Catholic religion. Their position of being outsiders who live in a society not their own by birthright, is shown to be crucial for their acquisition and knowledge of truth, and links insight to marginality, which is reinforced by McCarthy's technique of ironically detached observation, the 'cold eye' of her prose. McCarthy herself appears as an outsider character throughout her writing, both as the historical figure and as the protagonist of her autobiographies. Her self-image, shaped by her orphaned childhood and her youth as a Bohemian girl among leftist intellectuals, is subject to conflicting impulses of confession and concealment. McCarthy's wide use of autobiographical details in her fiction and elements of fiction in her autobiographies led most critics to study her work from a chiefly biographical point of view. My own approach to Mary McCarthy's writing takes their findings into consideration, and includes the analysis of the historical, political, and social contexts of McCarthy's texts, as well as the intertextual dialogue with a few select writings by McCarthy's contemporaries such as Philip Roth and Sylvia Plath.
Supervisor: Marcus, Laura Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: American literature--20th century--History and criticism ; American literature--Women authors ; Literature and society--United States--History--20th century