Doctor of Philosophy
Department of English
Brooks, Karen Ruth, Odysseus unbound and Penelope unstable: contemporary Australian expatriate women writers, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Department of English, University of Wollongong, 1996. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/1371
By examining the selected fiction of three prominent expatriate Australian women writers: Shirley Hazzard, Charmian Clift, and Glenda Adams, I analyse the expatriate experience generally, and advance a particular pattern of representation common to these writers. Their work evokes the liminality and ambivalence of the expatriate and "rewrites" the Homeric legend by giving an active and mobile prominence to Penelope figures. In exploring the psychological and physical dilemmas expatriation entails, they all disrupt generic literary forms (quest, romance, travelogue) and call into question systems of meaning from cultural conventions to language itself.
Expatriate fiction juxtaposes dynamism and stasis. The expatriate can experience both the need to articulate collective truths which stability and conviction allow, and the individual psychological harm that the inability to express these generates. Signifiers become arbitrary; nationality, land, chronology, temporal and spatial verities, and even gender, are all disturbed in the nomadic lives portrayed in the fiction of Clift, Hazzard, and Adams.
The principal method of the thesis is a close textual analysis of the various works of Clift, Hazzard and Adams, with some consideration of their different spatial and psychological relations with the country of their birth. This is informed by selected postcolonial and feminist theories. By also using the theories of Lacan as a useful heuristic for investigating the nuances and unconscious designation of language and cultural identification, I establish an expatriate theory. This argues for the importance of a liminal discourse which I call Femination, a juncture that transcends physicality, culture, and gender without seeking to dominate any position, and as such is polemically situated against, while simultaneously embracing, the concept of "nation" which is masculine (imperial), colonising, and exclusive.