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AbstractThe central project of this thesis is to diagnose, define, and articulate the concept of resonance. Resonance is a deeply textual, but not intertextual, relationship that exists between fictional and theoretical texts, allowing the former to position itself as a co-discursive partner to the latter. This is achieved via the subtle importation of theoretical models into fictional settings. In this instance, a resonant relationship is traced between Sarah Waters’s three neo-Victorian novels – Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith – and three publications which are representative of queer theory published in the early 1990s: Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Epistemology of the Closet by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (both published in 1990), and Terry Castle’s The Apparitional Lesbian (1993). As the introduction to this thesis clarifies, Waters’s novels are particularly useful to the resonant critic. All three novels are popularly and critically established as part of the neo-Victorian genre, yet their participation in many of that genre’s defining processes – overt intertextuality, metafictionality, parody – is limited. Limited, too, is their relationship with the Victorian texts that so infuse the genre. It is not, however, that Waters’s novels completely fail to reach for textual models; rather, as this thesis establishes, they reach for models found in contemporary queer theory, rather than canonical Victorian novels. This thesis contends that Waters’s fictions are examples of a distinctive assimilation and reworking of the postmodern principles that have helped to make the contemporary historical novel so very popular. The novels’ determination to articulate previously silenced voices, meanwhile, gives rise to this thesis’s second project, also stated in the introduction: an examination of the homonormative lesbians found in Waters’s novels. Women love, desire, and cherish one another – but are also viciously cruel, devastatingly unfaithful, and coldly deceiving to one another. The thesis as a whole identifies the range of relationships and individuals strewn across Waters’s neo-Victorian output as a co-discursive reverberation with queer theory’s politicised calls for queer representation. Each chapter surveys the extant scholarship on each of Waters’s novels, before pairing each fictional text with the theoretical text with which it resonates, in order to systematically examine the resonant relationship. As such, the fictional and theoretical texts examined in this thesis are given equal weight; theory is not positioned as a lens through which fiction is to be read. Chapter 1 traces models of performativity, Gender Trouble’s dismantling of the originating status of the body, and the failure of feminism to represent the lesbian through the bold picaresque narrative of Tipping the Velvet. Chapter 2 identifies Affinity’s claustrophobic corridors and panoptic middle-class houses as a receptive environment for an importation and repositioning of Epistemology of the Closet’s homosexual panic and the spectacle of the closet. Finally, chapter 3 finds the rather less deconstructive approach to lesbian bodies in The Apparitional Lesbian suggestive of Waters’s project as a whole; with regards to Fingersmith in particular, triangulated relationships, blocking gestures, and the de-apparitionalising of the lesbian are established as evidence of the resonant relationship.
CitationYates, L. (2011). Between Texts: The Resonant Fictions of Sarah Waters (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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