Dr. Sarah Cornish

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During the interwar period (1918-1945), women in England were faced with conflicting roles and identities. The men had left to fight in the First World War, leaving the women, who had previously held domestic and, at times, subordinate roles, to take over jobs and leadership positions. Women were exposed to and able to participate in public spheres, which caused social changes to arise. However, at the end of the war, women were expected to return to their earlier subordinate positions. Literature of the interwar period written by female authors represents the struggle of female identities for voice, agency, power, and relief from social oppression. This project explores the identities of women as represented in three British interwar period novels. In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa and Elizabeth Dalloway experience differing identities in public and private spaces. In Rebecca West’sReturn of the Soldier, Jenny, a spinster, struggles to define her social position. Mrs. De Winter of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier attempts to determine her place in a home haunted by the memory of the former mistress. These novels are analyzed through the lens of feminist narratology, a theory used to examine the narrative devices of a text as they relate to gender. Primarily, this project serves to reveal how employing a feminist narratological perspective in literary analysis provides an understanding of both female identities and the narrative’s overall function. Secondarily, this project contributes to a larger effort to recuperate female authors to disrupt the traditionally-accepted and male-dominated literary canon.

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