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    In Ruin Unreconciled: Women Writers and the End of the British Empire


    Trehy, Bernadette (2011) In Ruin Unreconciled: Women Writers and the End of the British Empire. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    Abstract

    Drawing on recent feminist cultural and historical scholarship on the roles o f women in colonial societies in the twentieth century, this dissertation examines the works o f four women writers who wrote important novels that reflect on the wider historical condition o f British imperial contraction and late colonial settler crisis. The women writers in question are from Ireland, India and southern Africa, and thus their works deal with some o f the key sites o f British imperial crisis and collapse in the last century. Beginning with Elizabeth Bow en ’s The L a st September, a novel which reflects on the condition o f the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy against the backdrop o f World War One and the Irish War o f Independence, the dissertation then moves on to examine two m id century novels by Anglo-Indian writer Rumer Godden, namely, B la c k Narcissus and B reakfast with the Nikolides. Both novels deal with th e anxieties o f the English community in India in the context o f World War Two and an increasingly assertive Indian nationalist movement. The later chapters in the study deal respectively with Doris Le ssing’s The Grass is Singing and with Nadine Gordimer’s The L y in g Days, novels that engage in diverse ways with the mentalities and predicaments o f English-affiliated settler communities in Africa in the post-World War Two era as the British Empire entered its final and closing phase. Deploying a b ro ad ly psychoanalytic mode o f analysis informed b y the scholarship o f Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar as well as b y that o f Albert Memmi and Frantz Fanon, the dissertation argues that the novels in question are deeply conflicted narratives that seem overtly to offer fairly conservative colonial settler views o f th e world, b u t which nonetheless also suggest a restive sense o f impatience and frustration with the restrictions imposed on women b y the colonial and imperial order o f things. The source o f these narrative tensions, elaborated in diverse ways in each writer, may b e traced to the historically-conflicted condition o f colonial women generally in the twentieth century. This was a period in which colonial women were compelled as white subjects to witness the collapse o f the colonial worlds in which they had come o f age, b u t in which as female subjects they were also drawn to the advances for women made possible by the women ’s movement in this period. The thesis concentrates in particular on the ways in which the novels mentioned above deal with houses and landscapes as crucial tropes that register a sense o f domestic colonial crisis and with inter-racial interactions o f various sorts as a means to explore the limits o f the possible as one historical dispensation came to an end and a new one opened up.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Ruin Unreconciled; Women Writers; British Empire;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts,Celtic Studies and Philosophy > School of English, Media & Theatre Studies > English
    Item ID: 6996
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2016 11:25
    URI:

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