Resolving the madwoman: unlocking the narrative attic by writing the maternal journey

Brown, M 2013, Resolving the madwoman: unlocking the narrative attic by writing the maternal journey, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Resolving the madwoman: unlocking the narrative attic by writing the maternal journey
Author(s) Brown, M
Year 2013
Abstract The 'madwoman in the attic' became many a twentieth-century writer's muse. Texts such as Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (1963), Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) and Margaret Atwood's Surfacing (1972) responded to a growing sympathy for the madness: as: rebellion metaphor. In recent times, however, many American feminist theorists (Chesler 2005; Donaldson 2002; Caminero-Santangelo 1998 et al.) have begun to question the non-rational as a resistance strategy.
Building on such criticism, this exegesis suggests both a new reading of these texts and a new writing of the madwoman in the attic. Employing Maureen Murdock's model ofthe heroine's journey, the aforementioned narratives are revealed as cutting their protagonists' archetypal journey in half, trapping the madwoman in the darkness of descent. In turn, the twentieth-century madwoman can be seen as, what I term, an 'eternal madwoman' : a liminal person who is prevented, by a ruptured narrative structure, from achieving any real personal or political efficacy.
Central to the arguments made in the exegesis is the importance of reuniting the eternal madwoman's descent with the narrative possibility of ascent. In this way, the study aims to build on the research of Marta Caminero-Santangelo, who poses the most important question of current feminist debate: how can the symbolic resolution of the madwoman in fictional texts open an imaginative space for women to escape madness by envisioning themselves as agents?
Together, the critical and creative components of this project explore the possibility that the intersection between recent maternal scholarship and feminist myth criticism identifies maternal agency as a possible key to the madwoman's attic and enables us to construct what I call the 'maternal journey'. This framework aims to enable writers to transform !he eternal madwoman from oppressed victim of the patriarchal hegemony to self-realised, self-loving, self-respecting subject.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Keyword(s) Literature
creative writing
the heroine's journey
maternal studies
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Created: Thu, 29 May 2014, 11:56:47 EST by Keely Chapman
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