O'Neill, Victoria Ruth Woodgate (2015) The role of the feminine in masculine cycles of death, rebirth and new life: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Babel, Bulgakov and Pasternak. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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This thesis uses the narrative framework developed by Theresa de Lauretis’ essay ‘Desire in Narrative’ (1984) to shed new light on the development of male and female characters in texts by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Isaac Babel, Mikhail Bulgakov and Boris Pasternak. De Lauretis’ narratological framework is based on work by Vladimir Propp and Yury Lotman. She draws attention to the inherently masculine identification of heroes, and argues that it is the development of these masculine heroes that drives narrative.

I apply this insight to nineteenth-century texts including Crime and Punishment and The Idiot, War and Peace, Anna Karenina and a selection of Tolstoy’s short stories. From the twentieth century, I consider Red Cavalry, The Master and Margarita and Doctor Zhivago. This range of works, by five different writers spanning two centuries, draws out themes in the portrayal of male heroes changing and developing, spiritually and intellectually ‘moving’, throughout narratives. I show the variety of ways female characters act as helpers, or donors, to their male counterparts; and also as the prize awaiting them at the end of their successful quest.

This re-reading highlights the significance of cycles of death, transformation and rebirth for the development of masculine heroes. While in texts by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, male heroes strive for intellectual and rational mastery, in twentieth-century texts the focus shifts to male characters’ abilities to exercise artistic and creative freedom.

In contrast to the cerebral and imaginative freedom associated with masculine heroes, I highlight portrayals of physical and sexual violence against women’s bodies, showing that female charcters are associated with their physical bodies to a far greater extent than male heroes experience embodiedness. The intellectual freedom and development of masculine heroes is privileged, while female characters remain in static positions, more defined by bodily limitations and vulnerabilities than male protagonists.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2016 10:32
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2016 10:32
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/2352

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