"Meditation(s) on a Prison Break": Feminist Subjectivities of Speech and Silence in the Fiction of Charlotte Bronte, Jean Rhys, and Margaret Atwood Open Access

Wojciechowski, Miranda Kay (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pz50gw483?locale=en


Throughout Charlotte Bronte's Villette, Jean Rhys's Good Morning, Midnight, and Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, the narrators attempt to both express and to escape their physical, psychological, and social imprisonment. Bronte's Lucy Snowe and Rhys's Sasha Jensen's internalized perceptions of gendered expectation initially prevent them from breaking free from cycles of isolation and repression. As they experience various nervous breakdowns, these narrators attempt to reconcile their fragmented identities, turning to external remedies such as alcoholic substance and religious rhetoric. These attempts themselves ultimately fail to move Lucy and Sasha towards a more cohesive, conceptualized presentation of identity. However, by articulating these failed attempts, writing themselves, and formulating their own stories, Lucy and Sasha gain insight into the self-perpetuating processes of isolation and repression, eventually acquiring conscious agency over their construction of identity both on the page and in the events which subsequently unfold in their narratives. However, although Lucy and Sasha attain agency through inhabiting the "I," their narratives remain entangled in the internalized strictures inherent in the masculine discourse revealed, performed, and replicated by their constructed subjectivities. Through the interaction of self-reading eye with the self-written "I," Atwood's Iris reformulates the boundaries of reclaimed agency to encompass the multiplicity of the self and the self of multiplicity, ultimately locating subjectivity beyond previous conceptions of the first person. Through simultaneously examining the alternative temporalities and differing narrative perspectives produced by Victorian, Modern, and Contemporary constructions, I hope to parallel Lucy, Sasha, and Iris's narrative journeys by deconstructing the critical categorizations which often limit the interpretative possibilities of the literary works.

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Chapter 1- The Distorting Mirror: Performances of Womanhood in Villette and Good Morning, Midnight. 9

Chapter 2- Things Rootless and Perishable: Depression, Isolation, and the Narrative Landscape. 35

Chapter 3- Unveiling Social Specters: Alcohol, Religious Sentiment, and the "Writing Cure". 55

Chapter 4- Eye-Witness and I-Witness: The Vision and Revision of Self in The Blind Assassin. 75

Bibliography. 106

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