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Lives of obscure women: Polyphonic structures and the presentation of women in the fiction of Christina Stead

Allen, Diana Lynn (1989) Lives of obscure women: Polyphonic structures and the presentation of women in the fiction of Christina Stead. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis examines the fiction of Christina Stead by applying a polyphonic theory of narrative to her presentation of women. A concentration on discourse analysis reveals the development of an artistry which experiments with narrative structures while at the same time focussing increasingly on the female protagonist.

The hypothesis is that Christina Stead is a writer creating unique variations of literary form which make her texts highly structured works of art. Her narratives explore a range of issues pertaining to the position of human beings in communities uniformly portrayed as unforgiving of any weakness. Cosmopolitan in her approach to life and literature, she depicts Australian, European, British and American society with equally ironic perception.

The thesis considers how female protagonists are presented, concentrating on discourse analysis to show the interrelationships among the various narrative voices in the texts. Commencing with a demonstration of the use of classic polyphonic structures in the early novels, the thesis moves to demonstrate how the authorial narrator tends to identify in later works with the female personae.

In spite of this tendency, the thesis shows polyphonic structures are evident throughout Stead's how corpus as a whole. By focussing the narrative analysis on the author's consistent attention to the roles of women, a double goal is being pursued: an investigation of her narrative techniques as well as her vision of available social and emotional roles for women. With this twin perspective acting as critical frame the thesis addresses the author's whole oeuvre. with shifting emphasis and detail as considered relevant, and in so doing attempts to fill a significant gap in the research on Christina Stead available to date.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Ruthrof, Horst
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