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Jeanette Winterson: violent acts and violent language within a reimagining of literature of the nineteenth century

Barry, J. A. (2023) Jeanette Winterson: violent acts and violent language within a reimagining of literature of the nineteenth century. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00111978


The focal point in Jeanette Winterson’s work for many scholars has been the search for personal completion or wholeness through the search for and expression of love. Studies have tended to concentrate on Winterson’s writing of the romantic, the autobiographical, the traumatic and her adherence to a lesbian feminist aesthetic. Little is said about how her often grotesque depictions of suffering and dissipation make statements about the violence of human experience; however, I argue that looking at the volatility of Winterson’s textual representations of the self, through her images of violence and the varied and layered violences that are enacted upon bodies, minds, and texts opens new areas of understanding in her work. Using a combination of close reading and critical appraisal of four of her novels which represent a cross section of her work to date, I will argue that it is the writing of violence within Winterson’s novels that has as much if not more to say about identity, and connectivity, than love. More specifically, these novels create a record of her developing feminist discourse within the context of the literature in the long nineteenth century, which seeks to reframe and write against phallocentric and misogynistic narratives. They effectively elucidate a progression from the marginalisation of military and patriarchal violence to a recognition of violence as a primeval and ever-present evolutionary and ecological force, a contest over language and beliefs and finally an enactment or recall of previous literary violence to inform an unknown future. Violence in the Winterson text becomes associated with and aligned to all identities. In this sense Winterson illustrates not just how violence begets violence but how violent thoughts, beliefs, language, and actions render change on the identity and lives of those who experience it, those who view it and those who are an enactment of it.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Mangham, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature and Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages
ID Code:111978
Date on Title Page:June 2022


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