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|"People don't want to marry me. People want to marry me. I don't want to marry people" : marriage-plot subversion through repetition in Anglo-American fiction of the 1920s|
|Author||Rosen, Jody Rachel|
English language & literature|
|Summary||This dissertation considers how H.D.'s HERmione (1927), VirginiaWoolf's Orlando: A Biography (1928), Edith Wharton's The Glimpses of the Moon (1922), and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Unpunished: AMystery (1929) undermine the monolithic love-plot tradition, forging new narrative possibilities. Changing gender conventions characteristic of the 1920s insist that women's development neither culminates nor terminates with marital union, but continues afterwards by shifting away from the repressive marriage-plot tradition toward a liberatory counter-tradition. These narratives employ various modes of repetition that change the kind of stories they tell and the role that marriage plays in them. This repetition of the establishedtradition---with difference---allows writers to co-opt the tradition to develop a counter-tradition. I consider three major types of repetition used as tools for subversion: repetition with difference of the love-plot tradition; repetition within a text of plots,characters, or motifs; and linguistic or rhetorical repetitions that heighten the effects of the other two types.|
My dissertation analyzes how these novels, through sentence- and narrative-level repetition, both use and break the sequence of "restrictive sexual-marital ideology" (Boone 10) to create alternative scenarios for women protagonists. In reiterating the non-traditional lives these characters lead, the repetitions critique marriage conventions, offering options other than conventional marriage plots. My project begins with what can be read as courtship plots, HERmione and Orlando, then moves to a courtship- and wedlock-plot hybrid, The Glimpses of the Moon, and ends with the only one of the four novels that involves a wedlock plot from beginning to end, Unpunished. The epilogue considers Nella Larsen's Quicksand (1928), which subverts the marriage-plot tradition without exploding the restrictive ending, exposing through repetition the confinement of marriage and the marriage plot.
Although three of the four novels depict protagonists who marry, none saves the marriage for the ending of the novel, nor are the protagonists denied autonomy---or a story---once married. Instead, these plots repeat with difference the rigid marriage-plot tradition, reworking narrative conventions of courtship and marriage. By re-positioning marriage in the narrative sequence and making the marriage plot not climactic, these novels offer women characters stories beyond their nuptial vows.
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