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A feminist reading of Charlotte Wood’s the natural way of things as critical dystopia

Ryan, Asha (2018) A feminist reading of Charlotte Wood’s the natural way of things as critical dystopia. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis offers a close reading of Charlotte Wood’s 2015 novel, The Natural Way of Things (NWOT) as a critical dystopian fiction, which modifies familiar dystopian convention through the spatial, rather than temporal, displacement of its subjects. This departure from the dystopian narrative’s characteristic setting in the near or distant future intensifies the potent horror of the narrative by encouraging readers to consider that the suffering endured by the young female characters in the narrative is, to varying degrees, happening right now, every day, in contemporary Australia. Furthermore, the act of the women’s containment within a prison setting invites a feminist critique of the myriad ways in which women in contemporary Australia are silenced, subordinated by and even sometimes complicit in the perpetuation of a social order that delimits what a woman is or should be, and what a woman does or shouldn’t do. This will be demonstrated through a close reading of the novel that focuses on two key elements. The first is Wood’s use of a distinctly Australian, pejorative rhetoric, the everyday familiarity of which accentuates the contemporaneity of the novel while simultaneously acting as a device for enforcing a male-based dystopic order. The second key element is central character Yolanda Kovacs’ intense alienation from her body; throughout NWOT, Yolanda confronts the chronic, life-long objectification of her body and in so doing, offers a critique of the bodily objectification of women in contemporary Australia. Her eventual retreat into an animal-like state is an act of radical resistance. The implications of this retreat for the intertextual present, however, involve a damning critique of a social order in which the only way women can conceptualise an autonomous subjective existence is through escape, isolation and the abandonment of a human existence altogether.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Surma, Anne and Kadmos, Helena
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