Date of Award

1989

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Supervisor

L. M. York

Language

English

Abstract

The emphasis which French feminism has placed on the forces in the female body and woman's bodily experience has generated much curiosity as well as controversy in North America. American feminists have tended, until recently, to employ a style of reasoning which follows the Anglo-American empirical, inductive, anti-speculative tradition. It has only been within the last few years that their suspicions of theories and theorizing have been laid to rest. American feminists are becoming increasingly open to theory, to philosophical, psychoanalytic, and Marxist critiques of a patriarchal way of seeing the world.

It would seem only natural, then, to apply French feminist theory and its interest in the female body to a developing pattern in Canadian fiction. Many Canadian women novelists, particularly Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood and Marian Engel, have been writing novels about women and their responses to their female bodies. In The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence presents the experience of a woman in an ageing body. Marian Engel's The Honeyman Festival describes the experience of a woman who feels imprisoned by her pregnant body and Magaret Atwood's Bodily Harm deals with the response of a woman to her diseased body. Ultimately, the female protagonists of these novels all feel betrayed and trapped and must struggle to reconcile the conflict between body and spirit. French feminist theory, offers certain psychoanalytic perspectives on the circumstances of the protagonist's past and present which add insight and understanding to each woman's conflict and her struggles for resolution.

McMaster University Library