Developing Practice-led Feminist Mythology of the Third Generation and a novel: 'The Material and the Divine'

Author: Lauren Butterworth

Butterworth, Lauren, 2016 Developing Practice-led Feminist Mythology of the Third Generation and a novel: 'The Material and the Divine', Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This thesis explores feminist revisionist approaches to overcoming gender binaries and subverting cultural myths of the feminine through a creative product, The Material and the Divine, and accompanying critical exegesis. I position this response within Julia Kristeva’s ‘third generation’ of feminism as outlined in her essay, ‘Women’s Time’. This position gives women access to the Symbolic Order beyond the patriarchal myth of ‘woman’ by recognising their active (as opposed to passive) desire. Consequently, this thesis brings the core concerns of French Feminism — female subjectivity through the body and the sacred — into a contemporary context to demonstrate the continued relevance of their theories in creative practice. My work aligns the French Feminist concept of bisexuality with a Jungian feminist approach to the unconscious. Jungian theory offers an alternative to the masculine imaginary as within Jungian psychology entry to the Symbolic is not reliant on the phallus. In addition, his concept of the anima and animus, along with his assertion that the feminine must be culturally acknowledged, provides a framework through which to imagine a fictional gynocentric alternative to patriarchal histories. My aim is to create a feminist revisionist text of the third generation, which deconstructs patriarchal binaries by returning woman to the body and to the sacred.

My novel uses a pattern of reincarnation as a framework through which to examine resonances in the repression of active desire of women in three historical settings: Victorian London, Late Reformation Alsace, and Renaissance Florence. The novel seeks to highlight the role of patriarchal institutions in the relegation of the feminine in both the individual and cultural psyche. This is examined through the repression of desire, as manifested in the Angel/Monster dichotomy. Reincarnation offers a framework through which to explore and extend this repression; it is internalised by each woman based on her experiences and, with each ‘rebirth’, emerges through the unconscious as unrecognised impulses, neuroses and complexes.

The exegetical component of this thesis offers a textual analysis of my own novel, The Material and the Divine, alongside Michèle Roberts’ In the Red Kitchen. I first discuss these two texts in relation to feminine approaches to time and space. This draws on Kristeva’s notion of cyclical and monumental time as the feminine alternative to masculine linear time. I examine how the temporal fluidity of the marginal female subject can be used to subvert and escape restrictive female spaces. Secondly, I examine the maternal body as a site of conflict. This includes how female characters respond to cultural expectations regarding reproduction, and the mother as a symbol of inherited myths of female inferiority. I then discuss how characters negotiate their identities and bodies by writing through the masculine and feminine pen. Feminist revisionist fiction aims to transform cultural understandings of ‘woman’ through revisiting cultural, mythological, or religious images, and consequently, my final discussion deconstructs the cultural myths of the virgin/whore, the witch and the hysteric/medium.

Keywords: creative writing, ecriture feminine, feminist writing, feminist revisionist mythology, revisionist writing, female gothic, women, women's writing, Doctor of Philosophy, Creative Writing thesis Doctorate, Michele Roberts, Practice-led research, French Feminism

Subject: Creative Arts thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2016
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Robert Phiddian