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Riding waves: Representing women's relational autonomy in the short story cycle

Kadmos, Helena (2015) Riding waves: Representing women's relational autonomy in the short story cycle. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The short story cycle is a collection of independent yet interrelated stories. This thesis is interested in the potential of the short story cycle form to tell stories about women’s ordinary lives and, within such stories, to explore the importance to women of continuing relationships of interdependence and care. This discussion is grounded in feminist critical discourses of relational autonomy.

It rests on the claim that the short story cycle is a particularly productive form for writers interested in stories exploring the complexity of apparently mundane moments in women’s relational lives and imagining how particular relationships transform women over the longer course of their lives.

The thesis is the product of a practice- and theory-based approach to research. The first part comprises an original work of fiction, which tells five, interconnected stories about individual women from three generations of one family in Australia, spanning the period between the 1980s and the 2010s. The stories focus on moments that linger, where action is limited, and where change is often nuanced or even imperceptible. The work consciously draws on structural and thematic elements of the short story cycle form uncovered through research into short story cycle theory and existing cycles written about women.

The dissertation comprising the second part of the thesis reflects on the distinguishing features of the short story cycle, its diverse rendering in North America, and its critical treatment by key theorists, highlighting how this mode of storytelling helps make salient women’s relational lives. This thesis also aims to increase awareness of the form in Australian literary scholarship. Therefore, the dissertation offers a close reading of one contemporary Australian short story cycle, Purple Threads, by Jeanine Leane, in order to demonstrate the imaginative significance and effects produced in an Aboriginal inflection of the form.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor: Surma, Anne and Lazaroo, Simone
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