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The Place Between: Time as Palimpsest in the reading and writing of women's fiction

Moore, Suzanne (2017) The Place Between: Time as Palimpsest in the reading and writing of women's fiction. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Time is one of the many measures through which women make sense of their embodied and emotional lives, and negotiate their relationships to work, community, culture, politics and history. However, traditional definitions often segregate ‘women’s time’ from contexts of public life and social change. This thesis, presented in two parts, is interested in developing, critically and creatively, a new understanding of women’s time through the conceptual framework of the palimpsest.

The first part of this thesis is an original novella that explores themes of family history, mother-and-daughter relationships, identity and time. Set in present day Sydney, the narrative traces the fraught relationship between Sarah and her mother, Beryl, utilising the technique of time-shifts to gradually reveal silenced family histories. The novella treats its characters’ diverse experiences as palimpsestic, through a combination of conventional linear and radically subjective modes of time, to represent women’s lives as complexly constructed and intertwined with the lives of others.

The dissertation, the second part of the thesis, explores the creative representation of time in fiction, particularly by drawing on Julia Kristeva’s seminal essay “Women’s Time” (1996e), and her notion of subjectivity, in order to develop the conceptual framework of time as palimpsest. This framework is proposed as a way to render women’s lives creatively and imaginatively in fiction. A critical reading of two novels by Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1996) and Life After Life (2013), harnesses the temporal palimpsest and offers insights into Atkinson’s treatment of time as a multifaceted phenomenon, one that both shapes and is shaped by the subjective and relational experiences of the everyday, experiences at once individual and politically and historically significant.

The thesis thus demonstrates how the temporal palimpsest might revitalise critical practices of reading and writing fiction, enabling a dynamic approach to moving beyond reductive renderings of gendered time.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Surma, Anne
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