Year

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Creative Arts

Department

Faculty of Creative Arts

Abstract

The Book of Ambiguity is a term I use to define texts that exist outside formal genres and categories created by market forces. The Book of Ambiguity takes reader and writer outside familiar narrative structures, outside traditional positioning of gender, sanity, and sexuality, to an ambiguous meeting place of ecstasy. In this liminal space there is a merging of writer, reader and character, until the sense of a third person, or uninvolved narrator, is challenged. There is a mingling of writer as reader, reader as writer, writer as character, reader as character, reader as book, writer as book, and the book itself ‘as one of its own characters’ (Cixous 2002). The Book of Ambiguity has a transformative power to take reader and writer outside the limiting binds of society, character, subjectivity and form momentarily, to highlight the ethical ambiguity of our individual freedom and responsibility. In this sense, The Book of Ambiguity is a political book that embraces Simone de Beauvoir’s key principles from her 1947 philosophical text, The Ethics of Ambiguity.

Although both men and women write Books of Ambiguity, the increasing freedom afforded to women writers has enabled them to explore previously taboo subjects: to place themselves within their own narratives as ‘mad’, sexually adventurous, or passionate, without the fear of involuntary incarceration that haunted them until the late 1970s. This liberation in content has led to a liberation of form, away from linear narratives and towards an embracing of a feminine style of writing, écriture féminine, as championed by Hélène Cixous. I term this writing, post- Madwoman writing, as there has been a marked shift in writing by women since Gilbert and Gubar’s 1979 study of Victorian Women’s writings, The Madwoman in the Attic.

This thesis is in two discrete, but related parts: the first is a creative work titled Lunation, an original written example of a Book of Ambiguity, and the second is an essay titled The Book of Ambiguity. The essay employs case studies of three specific Books of Ambiguity written by post- Madwoman writers; Dorothy Porter’s Akhenaten (1992), Siri Hustvedt’s The Shaking Woman (2010) and Anne Carson’s Decreation (2006).

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