A satire of their own: subjectivity, subversion, and the rewriting of literary history in women’s satire of the twentieth century

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sonya Elisa Blades (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Robert Langenfeld

Abstract: In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the study of literary satire, particularly twentieth century works that are more aligned with the complexity and ambiguity found in Menippean satire. Despite the abundance of scholarship about satire produced within the past decade, twentieth century women’s satire is an area that has been largely ignored. One reason why there are so few studies about women’s satire is that women theorists and critics distance themselves from the genre, making the argument that satire and women’s writing are in contention with one another. Because satire is an important tool used by the oppressed to mock their oppressors, this dissertation aims to uncover how women writers of the twentieth century use specific techniques of satire to deride the literary establishment that attempts to categorize and rank genres as ‘literary’ while marginalizing women’s ways of writing. I make the argument that parody and irony, both often used for the purpose of satirizing, are the two most common tools women writers use to critique the literary tradition. Furthermore, women’s satire uses humor and an emphasis on the subjective experiences of women to deflate the masculine focus on empiricism, objectivity, and literary exclusivity. Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories related to Menippean satire, parody, dialogism, carnival and the novel are used in this study to offer a framework of how women writers situate their criticisms of patriarchal hegemonies and hierarchies, including those within the male dominated literary tradition. Women satirists favor the Menippean form because of its ambiguity, playfulness, malleability and resistance to easy categorization, as well as the genre’s roots in the communal and egalitarian features of carnival. In addition, poststructural feminists such as Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva and Judith Butler add insight as to why women’s writing, including satire, is often misread by men when considering its refusal to fit neatly into the literary tradition and within distinct genre boundaries. This project intends to recover satire as an ‘available means’ for the woman writer. The chapters in this study offer examples of women writers within various literary movements of the twentieth century – Virginia Woolf, Stella Gibbons, Angela Carter, and Margaret Atwood – who satirically parody established genres including biography, history, rural fiction, the fairy tale and dystopian literature.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Mikhail Bakhtin, Stella Gibbons, Virginia Woolf, Women's satire
Literature, Modern $y 20th century $x History and criticism
Satire $x History and criticism
Women authors $y 20th century
Women and literature $x History $y 20th century
Woolf, Virginia, $d 1882-1941. $t Orlando
Woolf, Virginia, $d 1882-1941. $t Between the acts
Gibbons, Stella, $d 1902-1989. $t Cold Comfort Farm
Carter, Angela, $d 1940-1992. $t Bloody chamber
Atwood, Margaret, $d 1939- $t Handmaid's tale

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