Else, and The Female Time Traveller: Shadows, Spotlights and Otherness

Author: Jess Miller

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 9 Jul 2024.

Miller, Jess, 2021 Else, and The Female Time Traveller: Shadows, Spotlights and Otherness, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Time travel narratives are a literary space for challenging and dismantling structures of history, linearity, and cause and effect. The protagonists of these narratives have a responsibility not only as manipulator of time, but as a narrator of history; their perspective is the reader's window into familiar narratives of the past, as well as imagined narratives of the future. The identity of that time traveller—gendered, racial, sexual, and otherwise—has enormous influence over the parts of history they will engage with, and the type of future they will strive for.

This thesis looks at the time travel novel within the science fiction genre, as a space for the recovery and foregrounding of identities that have been routinely excluded from the narrative of history. It draws from Simone de Beauvoir's Other, outlined in The Second Sex (1949), and examines two key novels: Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979) and Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976). To frame my analysis of these texts, I introduce my own terms of "shadow history" and "spotlight history". Visualising the past as a stage, I define spotlight history as the dominant narrative of the past, and shadow history as the perspective, or perspectives, which are often underrepresented in contemporary retellings of that history. The thesis proposes that an Othered identity, within the subversive capabilities of a time travel narrative, is capable of shifting the spotlight to shine on those shadow histories, and can project those histories into narratives of the future. As the exegesis concludes, shifting this spotlight is a painful but necessary process for author and reader, as well as narrator.

The accompanying novel, Else, follows the eponymous narrator Else in 2019 Adelaide, who learns that she was actually born in 2051 and sent back in time by her scientist mother, as part of a government-funded project to combat inconsistencies in the timeline. The novel explores cause and effect, Otherness, the misrepresentation of scientific women, and how narrative voice contributes to the direction of the spotlight, on the stages of both past and future narratives.

Keywords: time travel, Simone de Beauvoir, Marge Piercy, Octavia Butler, gender, intersectionality, science fiction, creative, exegesis, literature

Subject: Creative Arts thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Lisa Bennett