Avoiding the archetype: reading and writing the female artist

Garrard, P 2009, Avoiding the archetype: reading and writing the female artist, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Design and Social Context, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Avoiding the archetype: reading and writing the female artist
Author(s) Garrard, P
Year 2009
Abstract This exegesis takes Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye (1988) and Jessica Anderson’s Tirra Lirra by the River (1978) as case studies within a critique of the structuralist view of the male artist’s novel (kunstlerroman ) and more recent structuralist readings of the female artist’s novel (kunstlerinroman ). It discusses Maurice Beebe’s and Linda Huf’s critical writings about fictional artist-portrayals and investigates the ways in which the post-modernist and feminist case studies conform with and challenge these theories. It argues that, by stereotyping the personality and largely the experience of the artist, the possibilities for individualized motive and character, as well as the opportunity for deeper interpretation of the text, are denied. As Roland Barthes famously asserts: ‘To give a text an Author is to impose limits on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing.’

In examining the two case studies, this exegesis aims to dispel the myth that there can be one archetypal artist story. Through discussions relating to identity, gender and structure, this exegesis reveals that Cat’s Eye and Tirra Lirra borrow from tradition before ‘decentering’ the genre. This is achieved through a circular treatment of time and a multi-layered thematic landscape presented through the prism of memory and identity. Where structuralist theory presents the artist protagonist as striving to conform to an image predetermined by cultural notions and literary conventions, my case studies insist that, above the artworks produced by the protagonists, the reinterpretation and retelling of their own life stories is a creative triumph for each.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Design and Social Context
Keyword(s) Kunstlerroman
Margaret Atwood
Jessica Anderson
Roland Barthes
Maurice Beebe
Linda Huf
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Created: Tue, 10 May 2011, 16:38:44 EST by Guy Aron
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