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Type: Theses
Title: She wore pants : a novel
Author: Newhook, Martina
Issue Date: 2013
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: ‘The Possibilities for the Social Novel in a Contemporary Context’ consists of two volumes. The first is a novel, ‘She Wore Pants’, and the second is a dissertation titled ‘Realism in a Postmodern World.’ Together, these volumes constitute my research on the genre of the social novel within the context of contemporary American fiction, arguing that a return to early twentieth-century realism will not result in a literature that is culturally relevant at this point in time. This inquiry began with a decision to write a novel based on the 2008 global financial crisis, featuring a female financier-protagonist who succeeds on male-dominated Wall Street. How might one write such a novel today? Contemporary literary fiction contains few examples of the kind of social realism that characterised early twentieth-century fiction. In addition, I discovered through the writing process and through critical research that it is difficult to write in that way now. The nature of society has changed, and along with it the nature, function, and form of fiction has changed. In a culture awash with hyper-reality characterised by replicas of the ‘real’ made available through cultural experiences including, though not limited to, Reality TV and cable news, the internet and social media, contemporary readers and writers seek something different from literary fiction. Instead of tragic realism, the contemporary novelist exploring broad social themes produces, for the most part, a type of social comedy described by literary critic James Wood in The Irresponsible Self as ‘the comedy of forgiveness’ (8). Wood traces the origins of the comedy of forgiveness to Freud‘s concept of the unconscious and the notion that the depth of an individual‘s character can never really be known. Contemporary readers and writers accept the inherent unreliability that corresponds with this idea, and can laugh with and forgive characters who may not deserve forgiveness, because in the end they are only human and worthy of our sympathy. Moreover, comedy is inherently social; its corresponding humorous effect depends upon a shared understanding of the social rules being broken. As Freud pointed out in The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious, humorous exchanges relieve emotional tension and conserve emotional energy that might otherwise be spent in anger or resentment or repression (115). Certainly our postmodern culture is not dissimilar to previous points in history in terms of its sources of social conflict based on gender, class, sexuality, religion, and economic disparity. What has changed is how we regard these conflicts and the way they are expressed in the form of the novel. Wall Street‘s contemporary hyper-reality has the effect of making comic the once tragic demise of greatness. We laugh and cry at its hubris. In the novel, ‘She Wore Pants’, Candace Cerise Pansenkosky, daughter of a shoe factory manager, rises from her humble New Jersey origins to become the unicorn of the species: a female Wall Street investment banker who has it all – wealth, looks, power – and risks everything, including prison, when she learns the unintended consequences of her financial innovations. Shortly after being made a full partner at her firm, Candace discovers that the Livesburg Tennessee School Board invested in one of her abstract financial instruments exposed to sub-prime mortgages. The school board lost all of its money. Unable to pay its debts, teachers’ salaries, or its operating expenses, the board runs out of options. Candace cracks a scheme to save the Livesburg County School Board and, with it, herself.
Advisor: Castro, Brian
Schwerdt, Dianne Ona
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2013.
Keywords: novel
social novel
comedy of forgiveness
business novel
postmodern fiction
Kate Jennings
Jane Smiley
Tom Wolfe
James Wood
Ulrich Beck
creative writing
Provenance: Vol. 1 [Novel]: She wore pants -- v. 2 [Exegesis]: Realism in a postmodern world.
Variant title(s): The possibilities for the social novel in a contemporary context.
This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
DOI: 10.4225/55/595f065115e96
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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01front.pdfNovel628.93 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
02whole.pdfNovel1.53 MBAdobe PDFView/Open
03front.pdfExegesis646.83 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
04whole.pdfExegesis964.56 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
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