This collection contains the Doctoral and Masters by Research theses produced within the department.

Recent Submissions

  • ‘The Madman out of The Attic’ Gendered Madness in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Villette, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

    Bury, Hannah (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-12)
    The nineteenth-century ‘madwoman’ is critically established, but not always contentiously questioned or repudiated, within Brontë scholarship. This dissertation will therefore explore the possibility that the quintessentially ‘mad’ female can be replaced by the heavily flawed, and often equally ‘mad’ man, who continuously controls and represses her. Through a diachronic analysis of Bertha Mason and Lucy Snowe in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Villette, Catherine Earnshaw in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Helen Graham in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, this project will demonstrate how and why the middleclass, ‘sane’ and respectable man can be met with character divergences and vices of his own. This undermines his credibility as a ‘doctor’ or a dictator in his treatment of women, which in turn vindicates and questions the validity and the ultimate cause of female ‘madness’ in the first instance. Chapters One and Two will trace Bertha and Catherine’s respective downfalls to death through ‘madness’, and their connecting relationships with both Rochester and Edgar. Chapter Three will examine how Lucy does manage to survive her mistreatment; yet, she is left without purpose or a definitive identity of her own as a result. In contrast to the preceding chapters, Chapter Four will inverse and redeem the trends of the nineteenth-century woman, ones which so heavily affected Bertha, Catherine and Lucy, as Helen survives her unfavourable experience. While Bertha, Catherine and Lucy react and succumb to their patriarchal repression in different ways, only Anne Brontë offers a solution to the polemical issues which all three authors raise. As she emancipates her heroine Helen, in contrast to repressing her further, she negotiates how an alternative and a more optimistic fate potentially awaits women who are entrapped within the rigid patriarchal systems of nineteenth-century literature and culture.
  • The Social History and Technical Development of Tatting: An Overlooked Needlecraft

    Wynne, Deborah; Rewhorn, Brenda M. (University of Chester, 2018-11-05)
    This thesis takes a narrative chronological approach to explore the development of tatting as a craft activity from the eighteenth century to the present day by examining a broad range of primary and secondary literature. Extant tatting and relevant ephemera in archives and other repositories have been examined and analysed in order to identify the origins of this hand-held, knotted lacemaking technique. By the very nature of the subject, the research has been multidisciplinary and the data was accumulated over several years at every opportunity. The narrative, an enquiry as a means of understanding experiences as lived and told through both literature and research, has extended from the first known record of tatting in print through to the present day. A variety of literature is discussed, including periodicals and patterns, along with many illustrations of tatting and shuttles, a variety of designs with their possible use, threads, methods of construction, provenance, extant tatting in museums and archives. The Introduction to the thesis introduces the history and development of this needlecraft as a leisure occupation for women and highlights how tatting has often been neglected in relevant craft literature. The chapter also analyses the world-wide appeal of the craft. Chapter 1 investigates the tools, threads and variations of this portable craft as well as the often confusing terminology associated with it. There have been many practical books and articles published about, or referencing, tatting and Chapter 2 offers an analysis of them from the earliest confirmed mention in 1770 to the latest books to show how instructions for creating this knotted lace have changed, from those Madame Riego de la Branchardiere at the end of the nineteenth century to the colourful diagrammatic instructions seen in the twenty-first century. Tatting has been used by people in all walks of society, and Chapter 3 discusses some of the uses to which tatting has been applied to fashionable clothing, from elaborate collars to handbags and parasols. Many of these tatted items are in museums across the UK, a large number of which were visited to in order to study the surviving items, which are discussed in this thesis. The catalyst for this research was The Art of Tatting by Lady Katharin Hoare which contains photographs of Lady Hoare’s own tatting and that of Queen Elisabeth of Romania. Chapter 4 focuses on the work of these women, both in terms of their writing and their surviving tatted items. Access was given to both the surviving tatting of Queen Elisabeth in Pelés Castle, Romania and Lady Hoare’s tatted items preserved in collections owned by her descendants and those still use in a church in Norfolk. This work, never before discussed in close detail, is analysed in Chapter 4. The Conclusion to the thesis reviews current attitudes towards tatting and needlecrafts in general especially the difficulty in promoting and keeping tatting active and alive. The thesis aims to offer the first academic account of the social history and technical development of the neglected craft of tatting, and original contributions to knowledge include clarification regarding the writings of Mlle Riego and the discovery and recording of Lady Hoare’s tatting, as well as the extant items by Queen Elisabeth in Pelés Castle.
  • The Dynamics of Time and Space in Recent French Fiction: Selected Works by Annie Ernaux, Patrick Modiano, Jean Echenoz and Marie Darrieussecq

    Obergöker, Timo; Alsop, Derek; Griffiths, Claire H.; Garvey, Brenda (University of Chester, 2018-11-22)
    This thesis investigates the ways in which literary texts negotiate spatio-temporal movements and how, through the nature of narrative, they may offer models for expressing the lived experience of time and place. The theoretical framework traces developments in philosophies of time and space beginning with Henri Bergson’s concepts of duration and simultaneity. The desire to portray both of these informs Gilles Deleuze’s study of cinema to produce his writings on the image-temps and image-mouvement which highlight the constant change undergone in moving through space and time which he defines as différence. The transformative nature of our relationship with the space around us and the agency of the body in that transformation is seen by Deleuze as a positive creative force and one which demands a continual deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation evidenced in the literature studied. Henri Lefebvre further interrogates the importance of the body in the production of space and contributes to the debate around the creation of place and non-place taken up by Michel de Certeau, Edward Casey and Marc Augé, whose work on supermodernity articulates concerns about the absence of place at the end of the twentieth century. These theories provide a backdrop for a close reading of the literary texts published between 1989 and 2017. Each of the four authors selected interrogates spatio-temporal connections in their work and, in order to model our lived experience at the turn of the millennium they experiment with form, genre and language and raise questions about the formation, location and stability of the self. Patterns of repetition and rewriting in the works of Annie Ernaux and Patrick Modiano engage with non-linear approaches to narrative and problematize duration, stasis and the construction and accessibility of memory. The novels of Jean Echenoz explore non-places and liminal spaces in ways that suggest possibilities for the future of fiction and Marie Darrieussecq questions the centrality of the body in defining the self and its agency in creating place. My findings suggest that the desire to comprehend and mirror the lived experience of time and space motivates the literary project of the selected authors and that the nature of narrative, in its openness and fluidity, can replicate and respond to some of the anxieties around time, place and non-place at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries.
  • From Fallen Woman to Businesswoman: The Radical Voices of Elizabeth Gaskell and Margaret Oliphant

    Wynne, Deborah; Baker, Katie (University of Chester, 2018-09-28)
    This thesis demonstrates the ways in which Elizabeth Gaskell and Margaret Oliphant drew upon their domestic identities as wives and mothers to write in radical, yet subtle, ways which had the potential to educate and inform their young female readership. While in the nineteenth century the domestic space was viewed as the rightful place for women, I show how both Gaskell and Oliphant expanded this idea to demonstrate within their novels and short stories the importance of what I term an 'extended domesticity'. This thesis charts how Gaskell and Oliphant educated their young female readers to imagine their lives beyond conventional domesticity. The extended version of domesticity they presented offered space for women of all backgrounds and experiences, including those whose lives did not fit into the Victorian ideal of marriage and maternity, to forge their own identities, educate themselves, and find personal fulfillment. Through examples of female characters from several of Gaskell's and Oliphant's novels and short stories, I explore the ways in which both writers made clear the importance of the domestic space as a tool for women's personal growth. Without providing prescriptive answers or solutions, both authors encouraged their readers to make decisions about their own lives by showing them what was possible when domesticity was extended into a place for education and development. They also pointed to possibilities for women beyond the domestic sphere. In the 'Introduction' to the thesis I outline my argument for Gaskell's and Oliphant's 'radical voices', discussing the range of recent critical approaches, as well as positioning Gaskell and Oliphant in their historical context as nineteenth-century women writers. I explore how the rise of feminism affected their work and consider how their way of communicating ideas in fiction differed from the approach taken by their contemporary, George Eliot. Chapter One discusses in detail Gaskell's and Oliphant's domestic identities and how both authors drew upon these to create an extended domesticity within their novels and short stories. I explore the publishing careers of both women before exploring how they exemplified the importance of educating their young female writers with their work. This chapter also introduces Gaskell's focus on representing female sexuality and Oliphant's interest in exploring the choices available for women in marriage and a career. Central to the chapter is a discussion of how both authors extended the boundaries of the domestic by representing it as a place for women to find recuperation, education, and personal growth. They did this, I argue, via their development of 'radical voices'. In Chapter Two the focus is on Gaskell's representation of the 'fallen' or sexually experienced unmarried woman. Through the close analysis of four of Gaskell's novels – Mary Barton, Ruth, North and South and Wives and Daughters - and two of her short stories – 'Lizzie Leigh' and Cousin Phillis, I demonstrate the evolution of her female characters, all of whom experience their sexuality in different ways. While her earlier young women have little autonomy over their lives, her later female characters are endowed with the ability to make their own decisions and forge their own identities. Gaskell makes clear that sexuality is a natural part of women's lives and that even so-called 'fallen' women should have a place in an extended domestic community or family where they will find room for recuperation and rehabilitation. Chapter Three moves on to discuss Oliphant's representation of 'enterprising' women. These women make choices regarding marriage and maternity, and even have identities in the public sphere as businesswomen. Again, through the close analysis of four of Oliphant's novels – Miss Marjoribanks, Phoebe Junior, Hester and Kirsteen - and two of her short stories – 'A Girl of the Period' and 'Mademoiselle', I demonstrate how Oliphant represented a range of female characters who were enterprising in different ways; from those who did not have careers of their own, yet used their talents in their communities, to those who managed their own businesses and enjoyed identities in the public sphere. The 'Conclusion' sums up the main arguments of the thesis, concluding that for both Gaskell and Oliphant their professional identities were as important as their domestic identities and that their novels and short stories suggest that all women could achieve an assimilation of private and public roles. I suggest that by using their radical, yet subtle voices, Gaskell and Oliphant showed that women could make choices and decisions over their own lives which moved them beyond the realms of conventional domesticity.
  • The Evolution of Artificial Illumination in Nineteenth Century Literature: Light, Dark, and the Spaces in Between

    Richard Leahy; University of Chester (University of Chester, 2016-03-04)
    This thesis concentrates on the role of artificial light in the society, culture, and literature of the nineteenth century. Technologies of illumination in this period had a great effect on how society operated and how people experienced space and reality. These effects will be studied through reference to contemporary sources, historical analysis, and literary analysis. Each chapter uses a distinct theoretical viewpoint, and maintains a focus on a particular author (where possible). In the first chapter, the role of firelight in the works of Elizabeth Gaskell is examined, using Gaston Bachelard’s ideas on fire and psychology. The second chapter focuses on the role of candlelight in the works of Wilkie Collins, using Jacques Lacan’s theories on the Gaze. Due to the density of metaphoric references to gaslight in his fiction, Émile Zola’s work is the focus of the third chapter, while Jean Baudrillard’s theories on the nature of modern reality inform the theoretical analysis. The fourth and final chapter examines electric light’s rise to prominence and the rapidly changing attitudes towards it. It was impossible to limit this chapter’s study to only one author, so instead attention is paid to how electric light transitions from a fantastical technology to something real; this is done through a close examination of the early Science Fiction of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, before the study moves to examine the realism of E.M. Forster and Edith Wharton. The theoretical background of this chapter is informed by a combination of previously covered theory, with attention also paid to posthumanism. The thesis identifies a number of trends and developments in the relationship between light and literature. It notes how artificial light created a space symbolically independent of light and dark, as well as elaborating on each light source’s individual symbolism. It also documents the relationship between artificial light and the transition of society and culture into modernity; it outlines the development, and cultural acceptance, of the notion of a technologically connected society and consumerism. Perhaps most importantly, this study identifies a psychological connection between literature, light, and the individual, and examines the representation of such a concept in the symbolism and metaphor of artificial light.
  • Between Texts: The Resonant Fictions of Sarah Waters

    Stephenson, William; Yates, Louisa (University of Chester, 2011-05)
    The 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.
  • Experts by Experience: ‘Madness’ Narratives, Language, and Politics

    Hutchinson, Alexandra (University of Chester, 2016-07)
    This thesis demonstrates that the historic silencing of those labelled ‘mad’ is – paradoxically – inextricable from language. Stigma is a semantic issue. The focus of my first chapter is to establish how and when the language available to discuss ‘madness’ became so problematic. Chapter one establishes a dual language problem: first, the language which surrounds ‘madness’ is limited and limiting; second, this language imposes social ‘otherness’, often permanently. I approach the politics of the language of ‘madness’ using Saussure’s hypothesis of signification, Lacan’s theory of the nom du père, and narrative theory, in order to investigate who is to blame when language and narratives fail. In chapter two, I examine the reality of these semantic and narrative politics. This chapter covers a variety of ‘madness’ narratives salvaged from psychiatric textbooks, for example those of influential psychiatrists Emil Kraepelin, Eugen Bleuler and Sigmund Freud. Such texts have been essential to the development of psychiatry, but how have these discourses about ‘madness’ functioned to establish stigma? I retrieve personal accounts from these hegemonic publications, establishing how the presence of paratexts and psychiatric ‘authority’ manipulate the receipt of such narratives. This will demonstrate how the historic silencing of ‘madness’ began. Chapter three focuses on how a cross section of nineteenth-century fiction portrays ‘madness’, in order to explore the potential for fiction to offer ‘madness’ an accessible narrative platform. Initially, I examine literature as a continuation of psychiatric discourse, including Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’; Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ‘Maud’; Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret. As a point of comparison, I examine literary representations which go beyond psychiatric discourse to articulate ‘madness’, exploring Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper; Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether’; and texts which explore other selves and other worlds (Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘William Wilson’; and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass). Chapter four examines the merits of visual art as a platform for ‘madness’ narratives, as it is divorced from many of the issues which are latent in language use. I explore the oeuvres of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century artists Richard Dadd, Vincent Van Gogh, Louis Wain, Adolf Wölfli, August Klett, and Hyacinth Freiherr von Wieser. Despite the theoretical assumption that visual art is universal and accessible, the social reception of art, necessary for this communication to be heard and validated, proves that the practice is far removed from this hypothesis. The stereotype of the ‘mad’ artist is, in itself, an oxymoron: in the realm of social engagement, either the artistic identity of the individual is compromised and eventually disparaged, or ‘madness’ is obscured and censored. Chapter five shows how the nineteenth-century model for (mis)understanding ‘madness’ is the foundation for our twenty-first-century discourse. This chapter examines narratives of ‘madness’ in popular culture, to understand how these discourses echo or challenge psychiatric representations of ‘madness’, and how a mainstream social audience is encouraged to feel about such depictions, including episodes The Simpsons, House and Peep Show, to explore how psychiatric discourse has shaped these narratives. This chapter also scrutinises the language employed by the media and other mainstream agencies in order to establish what these popular discourses reveal about entrenched societal prejudices and fear. This thesis addresses the question: can we truly ever speak of ‘madness’ without simultaneously silencing it?
  • Troubling Women Troubling Genre: Shakespeare's Unruly Characters

    MacKenzie, Anna (University of Chester, 2015-07)
    This thesis brings the performativity of William Shakespeare’s plays into focus; in presenting an alternative approach to his works, I show how literary criticism can be reinvigorated. Dramatic works demonstrate that, in their theatrical world, everything is mutable, and capable of evolving and changing, negating stability or reliability. Why, then, should what I term monogeneric approaches (forms of analysis that allocate one genre to plays, adopting a priori ideas as opposed to recognising processes of dramatic construction) to criticism remain prevalent in Shakespearean scholarship? Performativity, as defined by Judith Butler, is a concept that focuses on the dynamic constitution of a subject, rather than on the end result alone (whether ‘female’ for gender, or, for example, ‘comedy’ for plays). In establishing an analogical relationship between the performativity of gender and the performance of dramatic works, I offer new, interpretive possibilities for dramatic works, moving away from monogeneric methods. Constructing a method of analysis based on performativity allows an approach that recognises and privileges dramatic dynamism and characterisation. The role of female characters is vital in Shakespeare’s works: we see defiant, submissive, calculating, principled and overwhelmingly multifaceted performances from these characters who, I argue, influence the courses that plays take. This thesis joins a conversation that began in 335BCE with Aristotle’s Poetics. In acknowledging and interrogating previous scholarship on genre in Shakespeare’s works, I trace monogeneric themes in analysis from Aristotle, through A.C. Bradley, through to later twentieth- and twenty-first-century critics. I challenge the practice of allocating genre based on plot features, including weddings and deaths; such actions are not conclusively representative of one genre alone. To enable this interrogation, I establish relationships between theories such as Nicolas Bourriaud’s work on artistic exchange; Jacques Derrida’s hypothesis on participation and belonging; and feminist research by scholars including Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva. Performance analysis is a vital component of this thesis, alongside textual analysis. In a number of cases, multiple performances of a dramatic work are considered to illustrate the fascinating variety with which the text is translated from page to stage and the impact of different directorial decisions. I use the term ‘textual analysis’ to include the varying editions of Shakespeare’s plays, and to consider that every Complete Works publication is not, in fact, complete. The existence of quarto texts makes clear an important process of dramatic evolution, particularly when dramatic works and their allocated genres shift between quarto and Folio versions. Such textual instability highlights the difficulties inherent in applying singular identities to dynamic works. In locating performativity at the core of dramatic works and emphasising the key role of female characters, this thesis brings performance to the fore and presents an alternative ‘lens of interpretation’ for readers, watchers, teachers and scholars of Shakespeare.
  • Gender disruption, rivalry, and same-sex desire in the work of Victorian women writers

    Harding, Andrew C. (University of Chester, 2012-11)
    This thesis examines the important role of female same-sex relationships in nineteenth-century literature and culture. Whilst drawing directly upon Sharon Marcus‟s recent book, Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England, a revisionary queer reading of inter-dependent same-sex female intimacy and mainstream middle-class heteronormative ideals, my own study extends the parameters of Marcus‟s work by focussing on alternative contexts and previously overlooked same-sex female relationships. This thesis argues that the culturally endorsed model of Victorian female homosociality identified by Marcus was subject to disruption and transformation both within and beyond the institutions of marriage and the family. It concludes that various forms (rather than one definitive model) of homosocial desire shaped nineteenth-century female bonding. In the first chapter I explore the unstable social status of working middle-class women, and identify instances of employer/employee female intimacy organised upon a disturbance or reversal of social hierarchy. In the second chapter I demonstrate how the ideal of female amity was inevitably undermined in the literary marketplace, and that whilst women writers were engaged in constructing and disseminating this ideal in their novels, they were also embroiled in a series of professional jealousies with one another which served to undo the very ideal they were promoting. In the second part of this chapter I highlight the pluralism of mainstream homoerotic femininity by examining Dinah Mulock Craik‟s fictional representation of homoerotic surveillance manifest in a culturally endorsed adolescent female gaze. In the third chapter I challenge Marcus‟s claim that well-known independent nineteenth-century lesbians were fully accommodated into mainstream „respectable‟ society by demonstrating that some of these women informed Eliza Lynn Linton‟s homophobic portrait of radical feminist separatism. I also explore in this chapter Linton‟s fictional representation of sororal eroticism, and argue that (notwithstanding mother/daughter bonds) Linton, like many of her contemporaries, regarded sisterhood as the primary bond between women. I also evidence in this chapter that Linton‟s portrait of „sororophobia‟ is comparable with cultural ideals regarding the important function that female friends had in facilitating one another‟s marriage.
  • Images of the witch in nineteenth-century culture

    Wynne, Deborah; Elsley, Susan J. (University of Liverpool (University of Chester), 2012-04)
    This thesis examines the witch imagery used during the nineteenth century in children’s literature, realist and gothic fiction, poetry and art, and by practitioners and critics of mesmerism, spiritualism and alternative spirituality. The thesis is based on close readings of nineteenth-century texts and detailed analysis of artwork, but also takes a long view of nineteenth-century witch imagery in relation to that of preceding and succeeding periods. I explore the means by which the image of the witch was introduced as an overt or covert figure into the work of nineteenth-century writers and artists during a period when the majority of literate people no longer believed in the existence of witchcraft; and I investigate the relationship between the metaphorical witch and the areas of social dissonance which she is used to symbolise. I demonstrate that the diversity of nineteenth-century witch imagery is very wide, but that there is a tendency for positive images to increase as the century progresses. Thereby the limited iconography of malevolent witches and powerless victims of witch-hunts, promulgated by seventeenth-century witch-hunters and eighteenth-century rationalist philosophers respectively, were joined by wise-women, fairy godmothers, sorceresses, and mythical immortals, all of whom were defined, directly or indirectly, as witches. Nonetheless I also reveal that every image of the witch I examine has a dark shadow, despite or because of the empathy between witch and creator which is evident in many of the works I have studied. In the Introduction I acknowledge the validity of theories put forward by historians regarding the influence of societal changes on the decline of witchcraft belief, but I argue that those changes also created the need for metaphorical witchery to address the anxieties created by those changes. I contend that the complexity of social change occurring during and prior to the nineteenth century resulted in an increase in the diversification of witch imagery. I argue that the use of diverse images in various cultural forms was facilitated by the growth of liberal individualism which allowed each writer or artist to articulate specific concerns through discrete images of the witch which were no longer coloured solely by the dictates of superstition or rationalism. I look at the peculiar ability of the witch as a symbolic outcast from society to view that society from an external perspective and to use the voice of the exile to say the unsayable. I also use definitions garnered from a wide spectrum of sources from cultural history to folklore and neo-paganism to justify my broad definition of the word ‘witch’. In Chapter One I explore children’s literature, on the assumption that images absorbed during childhood would influence both the conscious and unconscious witch imagery produced by the adult imagination. I find the templates for familiar imagery in collections of folklore and, primarily, in translations of ‘traditional’ fairy tales sanitised for the nursery by collectors such as Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. I then examine fantasies created for Victorian children by authors such as Mary de Morgan, William Makepeace Thackeray, George MacDonald and Charles Kingsley, where the image of witch and fairy godmother is conflated in fiction which elevates the didactic fairy tale to a level which in some cases is imbued with a neo-platonic religiosity, thereby transforming the witch into a powerful portal to the divine. In contrast the canonical novelists whose work I examine in Chapter Two generally project witch imagery obliquely onto foolish, misguided, doomed or defiant women whose witchery is both allusionary and illusionary. I begin with the work of Sir Walter Scott whose bad or sad witches touch his novels with the supernatural while he denies their magic. Scott’s witch imagery, like that of Perrault and Grimm, is reflected in the witches who represent women’s exclusion from autonomy, education and/or the literary establishment in the works of Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot. Traditional fairy-tale imagery is particularly evident in Charles Dickens’ use of the witch to represent negative aspects in the development of society or the individual. In contrast Scott’s impulse to distance himself from the pre-urban world represented by his witches contrasts with Thomas Hardy’s mourning of the female earth spirits of Wessex, thereby linking fluctuating and evolving images of nature with images of the nineteenth-century witch. In Chapter Three I explore poetry and art through Romantic verse, Tennyson’s Camelot, Rossetti and Burne-Jones’ Pre-Raphaelite classicism, Rosamund Marriot Watson and Mary Coleridge’s shape-shifting, mirrored women, and Yeats’ Celtic Twilight: in doing so I find representations of the witch as the destructive seductress, the muse, the dark ‘other’ of the suppressed poet, the symbol of spellbinding amoral nature, and the embodiment of the Celtic soul. In the final chapter witch imagery is attached to actual practitioners of so-called ‘New Witchcraft’, yet they also become part of a story which seeks to equate neo/quasi science with the supernatural. I demonstrate a gender realignment of occult power as the submissive mesmerist’s tool evolves into the powerful mother/priestess. I note the interconnectedness of fiction and fact via the novels of authors such as Wilkie Collins and Edward Bulwer-Lytton; and identify the role of the campaigning godmother figure as a precursor of the radical feminist Wiccan. I believe that my thesis offers a uniquely comprehensive view of the use of metaphorical witch imagery in the nineteenth century.
  • The writing of a historical novel (entitled Chimera), together with an analytical commentary

    Wall, Alan; Rees, Emma L. E.; Simon, Christine A. (University of Chester, 2011-08)
    Chimera is set in England and France in the present day and at the turn of the nineteenth century. Henri de Saint-Gilles was executed as a spy in London in 1813 on the evidence of his friend Richard Turnbull. Two hundred years later the novel’s twenty-first-century protagonists, Julia Dalton and Peter Marchmont, are both researching the events surrounding this incident. Marchmont, a delusional café-owner, is convinced that his ancestor Saint-Gilles was wrongly accused and that Turnbull was in fact the spy; since there is no evidence for this version of events, Marchmont has decided to produce it through an elaborate forgery. Dalton, an ambitious postgraduate student who has run out of leads in her research, agrees to pool resources with Marchmont. Her research takes her to Paris, where she meets the eccentric academic Mathias Fournier; together they visit the Château Ruffec, the Saint-Gilles family seat, in the Charente. Here and at the university of Poitiers, they discover documents written by Saint-Gilles’s sisters, Rosine and Manon, concerning a visitor to the château in the summer of 1794. This visitor, who is also the father of Rosine’s illegitimate son, is subsequently discovered to be Richard Turnbull, a fact which has dramatic implications for Marchmont’s understanding of his ancestry. Dalton’s boyfriend Miles Carter, a police detective, has meanwhile become suspicious of her relationship with Marchmont and begins his own investigations, looking into Marchmont’s past and his connection with the career criminal Drue Paulin whom he has employed to steal documents to order. In this novel, past and present are interwoven. The historical narrative proceeds through fictional fragments of varying length, such as diaries, letters and memoirs, many of them written by Turnbull. These alternate with the twenty-first-century narrative and occur in the order of their discovery; thus the historical story is not presented chronologically but jumps around in time. It is also incomplete: there are hiatuses in the narrative, some of which are not explained. Running through the novel, but separate from the main narrative, are the sections of Saint-Gilles’s trial; these provide an official version of events which is complicated, and in places contradicted, by the rest of the narrative. A significant element of the plot concerns Turnbull’s hunt for the French spy in 1812. This is narrated in a journal purloined by Dalton early in the novel, but most of which she is unable to decipher until much later. (Her possession of this journal eventually enables her to detect a factual error in Marchmont’s forgery which would otherwise have gone unnoticed.) The concept of the past is here complicated by the fact that the events of 1812 are linked in Turnbull’s eyes with two significant episodes in his past: the death of his mother in 1788 following her entry into an extreme religious community run by the eccentric preacher Ezekiel Juggins; and an episode of both personal and political significance, only partially explained, which took place in Paris in 1793-94. All the characters involved in these earlier incidents (Juggins, Saint-Gilles and the American John Newman) happen to be in London in the summer of 1812 and are investigated by Turnbull; it is not entirely clear, however, to what extent his official remit masks a personal one. The open-ended nature of research and the relative nature of time are emphasized by the novel’s coda, which takes place in 2028; Dalton receives from Mathias Fournier a copy of two letters written by Richard Turnbull from Paris detailing his meeting in 1825 with the son whom he had believed, on Saint-Gilles’s word, to have died at the age of fourteen. Ambiguity is a major theme in this novel, and to express this the wave-particle complementarity of light has been used, both thematically and as a metaphor. Much of the plot of Chimera rests on Turnbull’s identity: was he a government agent, a French spy or a mere wandering scholar? Dalton considers the idea that Richard Turnbull might best be understood, like light, in terms of a ‘both/and’ paradigm rather than an ‘either/or’ one. The purpose here has been to link forms of duality and ambiguity which have long been recognized in literature (paradox, spying and betrayal, for example) with what appears to be a fundamental ambiguity at the heart of the material universe. One of the intentions underlying this novel was to produce a work which combines plot and suspense with intellectual weight. Through its use of subjective narrative as the means by which the historical plot is advanced, Chimera foregrounds the process of research and the slipperiness of narrative, whether historical or fictional. It is meant to raise questions surrounding the nature of textual evidence: the way in which it influences our view of history; the tension between subjectivity and objectivity; the sometimes tenuous relationship between ‘truth’ and ‘fiction’. The accompanying analytical commentary consists of five essays. The first examines various aspects of the writing of the novel; it discusses the origins of Chimera, some of the influences on it and the narrative techniques and decisions which informed it, including the ways in which the quantum theory of light has been incorporated into the narrative. The remaining four chapters discuss the main areas of research which contributed to the writing of the novel. First, two key texts are analyzed: Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, a polyphonic novel which examines the rise of Nazism in Germany, and John Banville’s The Untouchable, a roman à clef based on the life of Anthony Blunt. These untypical examples of the amorphous genre of historical fiction share features, both with each other and with Chimera; in addition, they demonstrate how history may be incorporated into fiction in an intelligent and imaginative way. Chapter IV, ‘Conventicles and Politics’ discusses some of the essential historical research necessary for the writing of Chimera. The themes of dissenting religion and political radicalism are central to this novel (they are brought together in the opposition of Richard Turnbull and Ezekiel Juggins); the complex relationship between them in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a defining feature of this period and provided a focus for the historical research carried out during the writing of the novel. Chapter V of the commentary combines a discussion of both history and science. First, it examines the historical controversy surrounding the nature of light in the early nineteenth century, a controversy touched on by Richard Turnbull in his account of Thomas Young’s lecture on light at the Royal Society in 1803. Young’s double-slit experiment is then compared with that of Richard Feynman in the twentieth century, and the implications of wave-particle complementarity are discussed.
  • Caught between presence and absence: Shakespeare's tragic women on film

    Rees, Emma L. E.; Scott, Lindsey A. (University of Liverpool (University of Chester), 2008-10)
    In offering readings of Shakespeare’s tragic women on film, this thesis explores bodies that are caught between signifiers of absence and presence: the woman’s body that is present with absent body parts; the woman’s body that is spoken about or alluded to when absent from view; the woman’s living body that appears as a corpse; the woman’s body that must be exposed and concealed from sight. These are bodies that appear on the borderline of meaning, that open up a marginal or liminal space of investigation. In concentrating on a state of ‘betweenness’, I am seeking to offer new interpretive possibilities for bodies that have become the site of much critical anxiety, and bodies that, due to their own peculiar liminality, have so far been critically ignored. In reading Shakespeare’s tragic women on film, I am interested specifically in screen representations of Gertrude’s sexualised body that is both absent and present in Shakespeare’s Hamlet; Desdemona’s (un)chaste body that is both exposed and concealed in film adaptations of Othello; Juliet’s ‘living corpse’ that represents life and death in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; the woman’s naked body in Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (1971) that is absent from Shakespeare’s play-text; and Lavinia’s violated, dismembered body in Julie Taymor’s (Titus, 1999) and Titus Andronicus, which, in signifying both life and death, wholeness and fragmentation, absence and presence, something and nothing, embodies many of the paradoxes explored within this thesis. Through readings that demonstrate a combined interest in Shakespeare’s plays, Shakespeare films, and Shakespeare criticism, this thesis brings these liminal bodies into focus, revealing how an understanding of their ‘absent presence’ can affect our responses as spectators of Shakespeare’s tragedies on film.