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Title: 'Liberties and licences': gender, stream of consciousness and the philosophy of Henri Bergson and William James in selected female modernist fiction 1914-1929
Authors: Saeed, Alan Ali
Advisors: Tew, P
Keywords: Female modernist fiction 1914-1929;Virginia Woolf;Katherine Mansfield;Dorothy Richardson;May Sinclair
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: This thesis reconsiders in detail the connections between a selection of innovative female modernist writers who experimented variously with stream-of-consciousness techniques, May Sinclair, Dorothy Richardson, Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf. It describes in this context the impact of the philosophy and thoughts of both William James and Henri Bergson upon these women writers’ literary work. It also argues for a fundamental revision of existing understandings of this interconnection by considering the feminist context of such work and recognising that the work of these four female writers in effect incorporates a ‘gendered’ reading of James and Bergson (encountered both directly and indirectly through the cultural and intellectual zeitgeist). In establishing a feminist perspective as key elements of their aesthetic the thesis explores the vital influence of existing tradition of female autobiography upon their reception and usage of both James and Bergson. The latter’s impact on such women writers were so distinctive and powerful as the work of these philosophers seemed to speak directly to contemporary feminist concerns and in that context to represent a way of thinking about society and culture. This echoes and has parallels with existing attempts at revisions of patriarchal society and creating new spaces for female independence. In the above context the thesis reviews existing research on the impact of James and Bergson on these four writers and offers new insights into how each of them made use of these two seminal thinkers by analysing the relationship between theories, selected literary and philosophical texts. Stream-of-consciousness ought to be seen as a distinctive, specific tradition connected with feminist concerns and as a way of writing the inner and hidden self, rather than just a narrow formal feature of literary texts; it offers women a continuing, creative exploration of its possibilities as fictional practice. The female modernists included in this account represent the celebrated: Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, together with writers largely and unjustly forgotten in subsequent periods: Dorothy Richardson and May Sinclair. However, the thesis demonstrates that such female modernist writers gained much from being part of a range of informal networks, being almost within a tradition in which they learnt, borrowed and reacted to each other; an interconnection that requires new critical recognition.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:English and Creative Writing
Dept of Arts and Humanities Theses

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