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Type: Theses
Title: Irrelevant bodies
Author: Jager, Michelle Caroline
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: This creative writing thesis comprises a creative work, the novel ‘Irrelevant Bodies’, and its accompanying exegesis ‘Violent, Antagonistic, Morally Ambiguous: Anti-heroines and the Female Gothic.’ Both the novel and the exegesis are concerned with female protagonists that challenge the traditional image of the Gothic heroine as either a passive, virtuous woman or an heroic figure by interrogating their use of violence, their callousness and morally ambiguous motivations. ‘Irrelevant Bodies’ is a Female Gothic novel that explores the impact of a traumatic event and its repercussions on the identity and behaviour of the protagonist, Vera. It is concerned with examining and disrupting narrative expectations connected with gender, traumatic victimisation and self-harm. Vera’s disturbed and disturbing ‘coming of age’ narrative is interwoven with the core or linear narrative on which the novel hinges, that of Vera and her partner Oswald’s holiday at the farmhouse of her childhood vacations. The sections depicting the past reveal that her early life has been punctuated by a personally experienced trauma and the loss of a friend through tragic circumstances. The novel explores the protagonist’s progression from victim to villain over the course of the narrative. The exegesis analyses specific works of Female Gothic fiction that centre on a morally ambiguous female anti-heroine: Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962); Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin (2003); and my own creative work, ‘Irrelevant Bodies’, an original novel in the Female Gothic subgenre. As one of the key tenets of the mode, the Gothic heroine has shared a long and fraught relationship with the genre. Whether the text is male- or female-centred, the expectation in conventional texts is that the narrative will, in some sense, revolve around her suffering. The Female Gothic has been identified as a subgenre and critical area of study that devotes itself to the trials, torments and anxieties of the Gothic heroine. As such, one of the main critical points raised in relation to these narratives is that the subgenre promotes ‘victim feminism’ and vilifies men particularly when narratives revolve around a blameless, victimised heroine being threatened by a villainous male figure. Alternatively, works such as Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya; or The Moor (1806) and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012) have been accused of being ‘more “misogynist” than feminist’ due to their villainous femme fatales (Davison, ‘Knickers in a Twist’ 34). Following on from Carol Margaret Davison’s contestation that the Female Gothic should be determined by ‘the sex of the protagonist’ and her reading of Zofloya; or The Moor as a work of Female Gothic (‘Knickers in a Twist’ 34), the exegesis engages in close readings of each of the novels interrogating the choices made, motivations, feelings or actions exhibited by the ‘heroine’ of the narrative. It argues that the protagonists in these texts are corruptions of the traditional Gothic heroine and her female foil, the femme fatale, unsettling boundaries between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, victim and villain, ‘us’ and ‘them’. Through a close reading of the morally ambiguous figure of the anti-heroine the exegesis interrogates the fluidity and tenuous nature of such classifications as hero and heroine, victim and villain, within the contextualising and shifting nature of power.
Advisor: Schwerdt, Dianne Ona
Nettelbeck, Amanda E.
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of School of Humanities, 2018
Keywords: creative writing
female gothic
gothic literature
difficult women
Description: Vol. 1 [Embargoed]: Irrelevant bodies : Novel -- v. 2 Violent, antagonistic, morally ambiguous: anti-heroines and the female gothic : Exegesis
Provenance: 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: 10.25909/5b46b2b82f586
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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