Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Margaret Laurence confesses in Dance on the Earth: A Memoir that she felt compelled to write about something that women's published writing was lacking. Her novels are self-consciously about "Physical reality ... ordinariness, dirt, earth, blood, yelling [and] a few messy kids" (Laurence 130). In an interview with Michel Fabre she contends that "there are certain things I can get at only through women .... Also there are a great many male novelists and it is about time more women wrote about women" (Woodcock 204). The Stone Angel is just such a novel. Laurence's novel, It celebrates the , "- female and in so doing becomes a paradigm of Hélène Cixous's "writing with a difference."
The stone Angel is a novel in which Laurence purposefully invites readers into the world of women. In so doing, the narrative offers a discourse which affirms a confessional, personal and sometimes neurotic female subject position. Such a position in The Stone Angel becomes a locus of power. Nonetheless, there is a marked tension between the typescript and the novel. Admittedly, some of Laurence's deletions are the result of a refinement in her craftsmanship and scholarship. However, many of the deletions have a much broader implication and reveal Laurence's internal struggle. These deletions are most compelling and expose Laurence 's insecurity in writing from a female subject position.
This thesis will compare the typescript of The stone Angel to the published version. The purpose of such an examination is two-fold. First, the disparities between Laurence's private work and the product she presents to a public audience illustrate the gender confinement Laurence experienced as a woman writing in the early sixties. Second, the degree to which societal/cultural constraints informed Laurence's authorial censorship cannot be ignored. To my mind, Hagar Shipley's uneasiness with a shifting private/public world offers a glimpse of the tension with which Laurence herself was struggling.
The introduction presents the very private, shy Margaret Laurence and her work habits. Chapter One is an overview of the existing criticism of the text of The Stone Angel, particularly articles which relate to themes in this thesis. The second chapter explores the tension between the private and public spheres in the text and the themes which make The Stone Angel an example of Hélène Cixous's écriture féminine and a model of feminist literature. Chapter Three outlines the deletions and the corresponding entries in the published text. The fourth chapter examines the disparity between the typescript's and the novel's entries relating to religion. Chapter Five focuses on the treatment of death, motherhood and sex in the typescript and the text. Such an arrangement of topics is in truth a false separation, for all the themes are connected and impact on one another with a kind of synergistic energy. Nonetheless, the divisions are meant to be a way to better understand Laurence, the typescripts and Hagar.
Hagar, despite or perhaps because of her marginalization, becomes a symbol of a new way of knowing, a new way of seeing things - a symbol of the feminine. Because of Laurence's manipulation of idiom and discourse, Hagar Shipley offers immediate access to readers because she is everyone's Grandmother; in many ways Hagar is every woman. In Laurence's own words:
If Hagar in The Stone Angel has any meaning, it is the same as that of an old woman anywhere, having to deal with the reality of dying. On the other hand, she is not an old woman anywhere. She is very much a person who belongs in the same kind of prairie Scots-Presbyterian background as I do, and it was, of course, people like Hagar who created that background, with all its flaws and its strengths. (Heart of a Stranger 18)
Woods, Susan J., "The Crafting of Concealment: A Comparative Study of the Typescript and Text of Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel" (1995). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5951.
McMaster University Library