"AN ASSEMBLAGE OF DARK VOIDS AND UNBRIDGABLE GAPS": ENGENDERING AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN CAROL SHIELDS'S THE STONE DIARIES
This thesis is an investigation into meta-autobiographical aspects of Carol Shields's 1993 novel, The Stone Diaries. The primary focus of the thesis is on the ways in which the novel engages with both techniques of autobiography and feminist theories of autobiography to examine the communal appropriation of the protagonist's voice, the construction of her body, the representation her relationship with her absent mother, and the domestic aspects of her life. The thesis makes reference to several of Shields's other works as it investigates The Stone Diaries. Chapter One examines autobiographical theories that suggest that women's life writing is both relational and fragmented, and begins to situate the novel in the context of those theories. It identifies the novel as a postmodern text that disrupts the boundaries between fiction and autobiography. Finally, the chapter acknowledges that my thesis is informed by theories propounded by Nathalie Cooke and Marlene Kadar that suggest that life writing also can be a critical practice. Chapter Two looks at the undermining of the narrator's voice, the vacillation between first- and third-person narration, and the eventual narrative appropriation of protagonist Daisy Goodwill Flett's life story by the people' around her. It concludes that the novel uses these varied narrative techniques to both inscribe and comment critically on theories that propose that women's life writing is discontinuous and their lives interdependent. Chapter Three examines the traditional unspeakableness of bodies, especially women's bodies, in autobiography. This chapter suggests that corporeal omissions and inclusions in the novel are evidence of an awareness that representing the body in autobiography has the potential to be emancipatory. Chapter Four looks at the novel's parent-child relationships in light of Bella Brodzki's suggestion that women often begin writing autobiographies as a way of attempting to communicate with their absent mothers. The chapter argues that Daisy's autobiographical project is in part an attempt to connect with her dead mother, an attempt that is successful only in her imagined merger with the body of her mother at death. Chapter Five examines references to diaries in The Stone Diaries as evidence of the domestic, an aspect of life often left out of both autobiography and fiction. Showing how the novel engages with theories of women's domestic lives put forward by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique (1963), this final chapter investigates how the narrative both explores and undercuts the idea that the domestic can be an avenue of creativity for women. My thesis concludes that the novel, to use Rachel Blau DuPlessis's words, writes "beyond the ending," by showing Daisy as a wife, mother, and friend and by using narrative techniques that allow her to imagine and then record her own death.
Master of Arts (M.A.)