AuthorThompson, Ruthe Marie, 1957-
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractOne of the primary objectives of the realist novel has been to imitate the linguistic processes that assert and maintain the idea of a coherent identity. In Working Mother: The Birth of the Subject in the Novel, I present a developmental view of the birth of the subject as articulated by some of the architects of the novel. In an examination of James and Henry Austen's Loiterer, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Henry James' Washington Square, I locate and analyze narrative sites that mirror, presage, and/or encourage the production of readerly subjectivity across the body of a female or feminized figure, usually a mother. I employ a psychoanalytic and semiotic point of view to demonstrate the mother's role in narrative subject formation via the process of "suture." Margaret Homans, Christine Boheemen, and others have argued that the novel--and indeed all of Western culture--depends upon the repression of the mother. In Homan's useful formulation "the mother's absence is what makes possible and makes necessary the central projects of our culture." Active subjugation, incorporation, and disavowal of the maternal--ejecting the mother from the story, separating her from the protagonist, and from the reader--enable subjects to be produced in the novel form. Aggressivity as well as narcissism, disavowal as well as incorporation, help to jettison the originary feminine from the novel, leaving an absent space in which the subject can enunciate.
Degree ProgramGraduate College