School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    Women writing traumatic times
    Haylock, Bridget Anne ( 2014)
    This thesis is a critical and creative investigation into the literary representation of post-traumatic emergence and proceeds from an examination of recent developments in trauma theory in the context of feminist literary criticism and Australian fiction. The critical enquiry uses a psychoanalytic feminist framework to focus on four novels: Barbara Baynton’s, Human Toll (1907), Sue Woolfe’s, Painted Woman (1990), Morgan Yasbincek’s, liv (2000), and Alexis Wright’s, Carpentaria (2006). I examine the particular generic, narrative and conceptual strategies each writer uses in their work to describe and inscribe creative emergence from the effects of historical, intergenerational and cultural trauma, and the subsequent impact on modalities of subjectivity. Principal themes that are evident from this research are the deployment of generic merging to subvert expectations of power relations and engender the development of new paradigmatic writing forms, and the presence/lack of agency from within the traumatic space. In the varying employment of écriture féminine in these novels, which are examples of Bildungsroman, Künstlerinroman, and parodic epic, respectively, the writers generate radical language through which to testify to trauma and suggest that from abjective experience, empowerment and transformation are not only possible, but also essential. These writers attempt to reframe embodied experience through experimentation with assumptions around signifying practices, as they interrogate their position for its relation to power and feminine subjectivity. The creative project that accompanies this literary-critical dissertation is a novella entitled The Saltbush Thing, which performs many of the literary practices visited in the dissertation in a related thematic narrative exploration. The story centres on the changing relationship between three generations of women of a dysfunctional Australian family, who each enact a creative emergence from trauma that has multiple layers and causes.