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Can Silence Speak? Reading the Marginalized Woman in Three Novels of Female Development

Strobel, Leah (2010) Can Silence Speak? Reading the Marginalized Woman in Three Novels of Female Development. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This work investigates the representation of domestic servants within mid-twentieth century novels of female development, which are written by middle class women. The comparison is between the following authors: Rosario Castellanos from Mexico, Jean Rhys from the West Indies, and Clarice Lispector from Brazil. Postcolonial women writers have needed to tackle hegemonic structures within their own fiction, as they confront the privilege of the modern writing subject who frames herself in opposition to the silence of colonized female characters. Working to rewrite history, and to develop texts that speak from the margins, there is a conscious effort to incorporate subaltern voices into their narratives. Nevertheless, anxiety arises within those texts of middle-class writers who are preoccupied with the management of differences, stemming from a realization that in fact there is no place within the privileged writing subject's text from which the subaltern can actually speak. Therefore the authors struggle to write within a masculine-centered literary tradition that privileges certain voices over others, while at the same time recognizing their complicity with that system that works through exclusions. While the servant is silenced, the writing also shields her from being appropriated and defined by the mistress who needs her as a caregiver while she pursues a personal growth and awakening. That is, silences are used to form a protective space in which the marginalized woman cannot be merely the embodiment of alterity for the narrator's quest for subjectivity. An element of shame is therefore revealed by means of an implied author, which reminds them that they are expressing an ideal that they themselves have not lived up to. The marginal character becomes a negative element that points to the inability of the narrative to adequately represent her. It questions the model of solidarity through shared oppression that readings of women's and postcolonial writings often take, suggesting that new forms of community need to be imagined that take into account inequalities and injustices between women.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Strobel, Leahlls14@pitt.eduLLS14
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBranche, Jeromebranche@pitt.eduBRANCHE
Committee MemberChamberlain, Bobbychambln@pitt.eduCHAMBLN
Committee MemberGraff Zivin,
Committee MemberAndrade, Susansza@pitt.eduSZA
Date: 24 June 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 10 December 2009
Approval Date: 24 June 2010
Submission Date: 10 April 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Hispanic Languages and Literatures
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: aesthetics of failure; narcissism; narrative silences; solidarity
Other ID:, etd-04102010-173630
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:35
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:39


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