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Bad habits temptation and the divided self: a work of fiction and a critical accompaniment using the lunatic asylum, the theatre and the uncanny motif of the double, in the context of nineteenth-century Fremantle, to explore female sexuality and fractured

Morrison, Joanna (2006) Bad habits temptation and the divided self: a work of fiction and a critical accompaniment using the lunatic asylum, the theatre and the uncanny motif of the double, in the context of nineteenth-century Fremantle, to explore female sexuality and fractured. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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      Abstract

      Bad Habits: Temptation & The Divided Self is a thesis comprising an original work of fiction and a critical accompaniment, which use the lunatic asylum, the theatre and the uncanny motif of the double, in the context of nineteenth-century Fremantle, to interrogate social conformity and the patriarchal repression of female sexuality.

      Victorian society polarised women into either selfless, virtuous angels of the house or fallen women beyond redemption. While the former exemplified an unforgiving, patriarchal notion of femininity, the latter bore the stigma of 'moral insanity' and, given the right circumstances, could lead to a period of incarceration in the lunatic asylum. Thus, in fledgling Fremantle, psychiatry and the gothic lunatic asylum were deeply implicated in enforcing a patriarchal ideology on women.

      The Victorian rhetoric of virtue considered women more susceptible than men to the contaminating forces of such cultural phenomena as novels and the theatre. As such, actresses were both cause and effect of social contamination: not quite fallen, but similarly tainted. The protagonist in my historical fiction is an actress who experiences an uncomfortable dual consciousness when on stage as her 'awareness' watches from the wings, surveyor of herself surveyed. This duality is further entrenched when she is photographed by a local portrait artist and is admitted to Fremantle's lunatic asylum for wilful and 'promiscuous' behaviour, diagnosed as suffering symptoms of 'moral insanity'.

      Deprived of her freedom, she learns to view her past as something shameful and unnatural and is thus triumphant when she makes permanent the cleavage between her new conscience and her old. It is only on her release that she discovers the consequences of that division: an uncanny but inescapable relationship with her living, breathing double.

      Today, women are bombarded with images of the ideal feminine and girls are sexualised at an increasingly young age, and so a discussion of femininity, as defined by patriarchy, and the way it shapes a woman's identity are as relevant as it has ever been.

      Bad Habits is designed to evoke a gothic Fremantle in which to explore motifs that arise in the numerous texts on the gothic and the uncanny manifestation of the divided self. These literary texts, read alongside those which analyse the fixation of Victorian society on the bodies, minds and weaknesses of women, have provided the framework for a critical analysis of the finished work.

      Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
      Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
      Supervisor: Robertson, Deborah
      URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/209
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