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Appears in Collections:eTheses from Faculty of Arts and Humanities legacy departments
Title: The looking-glass of empire : early feminist interrogation of the colonial patriarchy, 1850-1950
Author(s): Stewart, Jane Patricia
Issue Date: 2000
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis contends that there is a substantial body of protofeminist and feminist fiction by colonial women writers which offers a critique of imperialism; indeed, because it challenges white male discourse in an imperial setting and in the domestic setting of the ‘home’ colony, it shares many characteristics with postcolonial literatures. Close textual study of examples from this body of writing from the white settler colonies and from India reveals that colonial feminists countered masculinist discourse in four closely imbricated areas: gender, race, class, and history. Central to the development of this genre, which is assessed against Elaine Showalter’s study of the female literary tradition, is the female adaptation of the male Bildun^sroman as a means of challenging patriarchal constructions of womanhood. These were founded on the scopophilic gaze and symbolized in art and literature through the mirror as icon of transgressive female behaviour. The thesis is organized chronologically, and, over the period under discussion, colonial feminist writers move from expressing their preoccupation with female entrapment within the male gaze to assertions of female nationhood in which a fresh sense of the female self is constructed through the medium of writing, rather than through the looking-glass. Although links are recognized between the writing of white colonial feminists and postcolonial literatures, few studies have undertaken a comprehensive examination of white women’s literature across the empire as a whole. The thesis confirms the presence of oppositional white voices during the colonial era and points to ways in which colonial women’s writing can be regarded as a cohesive corpus which builds from generation to generation.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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