AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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Other Titlesnew considerations of identity, genre and authorship in the Fiction of Sarah Waters.
AbstractThis thesis is an interdisciplinary study of the lesbian fiction of Sarah Waters and it will demonstrate through a series of theoretical trajectories how her work creates new historical and cultural spaces for the representation of working-class female same-sex desire. Waters’ work exposes the fissures and instability of constructed social narratives, as her stories present women who have traditionally had their meaningful place in society denied to them. In response, this thesis illustrates how Waters’ work unearths the hidden histories of lesbians and shows them as meaningful participants in society. This thesis considers how it has been difficult for contemporary lesbians to locate a sense of their subjectivity with Sapphic icons of the past. Traditional literary representations of the lesbian-figure present a spectral and waif-life form. Such ethereal manifestations have helped ensure that lesbians are denied a visible legacy within society, because in many respects they are idealised forms, which are unattainable for women from ordinary backgrounds. In other words they have become a middle-class-specific form of identification. In this regard, this thesis demonstrates how Waters uses the concept of proximity to introduce alternative ways of meaning making into the text. For example, proximity enables the reader to experience in greater depth the relationship between space and place, whereby the social position of lesbians has been used to restrict the cultural spaces lesbian lived existence has conventionally had access to. In this way, paying attention to proximity enables the reader to challenge cultural assumptions of gender. Moreover, the closeness that Waters has to her subject matter, through the author-figure, gay activist and as public intellectual means that her function in the author role brings into being a series of authenticated examples of lesbian lived existence which come about through Waters’ own intention. Waters writes from a place that feels very intuitive to her. When she writes she says it feels very instinctive. In this regard her writing houses an interiority that other writers of marginal existence exhibit. For example, this thesis sees Waters as a co-producer of knowledge and argues that Waters creates a second authorial self that provides a governing consciousness for readers of her work. Waters has a long involvement in LBGT politics and it is shown how Waters’ work is influenced by a combination of her political and public selves. In this regard, this thesis draws attention to the palimpsestic nature of her work in relation to the inner and outer spaces that it occupies. In many respects Waters’ fiction deals with the notion and concept of the queer, emptying these relative positions of their negative stereotype and showing how the term ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by gay culture. In this regard, this thesis shows how the themes and issues that emanate from Waters’ fiction can be read as a series of queerings meant to challenge and intervene in ideas of fixity. Queerness locates textual inconsistencies that are gained from the momentum of revolving and evolving interpretations. In this way, this thesis argues that Waters’ writing exposes the imbricated nature of cultural and social hegemony and releases the pleasures within the text.
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