Creative displacement and corporeal defiance : feminist Canadian modernism in Margaret Laurence's Manawaka novels
Dudek, Debra Lynn
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My dissertation begins with an Introduction that characterizes aspects of mainstream male modernism and then argues for a revisionary modernism that includes Canadian feminist modernism. I use Margaret Laurence's Manawaka novels as a model that helps situate Canadian feminist modernist narratives in the context of a modern Canada defined by its past as a British colony and its present as a cultural and economic colony of the United States. I argue that a Canadian feminist modernism emerges in tandem with Canadian nationalism and the second-wave feminist movement. The chapters that analyze the novels are arranged in the chronological order of the novels' publication so that it is apparent how an emerging feminism develops more fully in each novel and how that feminism helps define a Canadian feminist literary modernism. The first chapter, "Reconciling Pain and Pleasure in 'The Stone Angel'" analyzes how Hagar Shipley displaces patriarchal models by reconciling her complicity in these models with her resistance to their power. The second chapter, "Bearing Her Voices: Rachel's Broken Bones and the Discourse of Hysteria," considers ' A Jest of God' as a novel that is concerned with the divided subject in modernity and the discourses that define this subject. The third chapter, "Poetic Redress: Her Body, Her House in 'The Fire-Dwellers'," examines 'The Fire-Dwellers' as a modernist novel that analyzes how the sentimental and the private sphere are marginalized in mainstream male modernist narratives. The final chapter, "Floating Pique: 'Harbinger of My Death, Continuer of Life,'" considers the complex relationship between Pique and Morag in 'The Diviners' as a relationship that reorders time and space and enables the present to be strategically recreated without destroying the past. This project describes a Canadian feminist literary modernism in order to draw attention to revisions that need to take place in a misleadingly unqualified modernism. Jointly and separately, these novels creatively displace male modernist narratives through corporeal defiance. In the embodied landscapes of the novels, the protagonists defy patriarchal authority by privileging community, plurality, eccentricity, and multiple subjectivity. Annihilative narratives are displaced, but not replaced, by creative narratives.