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The construction of gender through embarrassment, shame and guilt in the poetry of Selima Hill

Winrow, L 2013, The construction of gender through embarrassment, shame and guilt in the poetry of Selima Hill , PhD thesis, School of Arts and Media.

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Abstract

This thesis combines close poetry readings and theoretical material in an inquiry into the construction of gender through embarrassment, shame and guilt in the work of British poet Selima Hill. The introduction establishes the theoretical framework for the thesis which is informed by Judith Butler’s argument in Gender Trouble regarding the performativity of gender. It is asserted that gender is constructed under the shaping influence of embarrassment, shame and guilt within intimate relationships, and underpinned by physical and emotional (silent) violence. The main body of the thesis is divided into four chapters: Chapter One looks at Hill’s negotiation of parental roles within the family, the ‘silent violence’ inherent in intimate relationships and locates childhood as a time of malleability in relation to gender (reflected in the recurring image of the burnt baby as an embodiment of shame and guilt). Chapter Two deals with heterosexual relationships and the operation of desire and violence within Hill’s poetic landscapes; her female characters are depicted in a way that seeks to undermine the structures and conventions of representing female desire. Chapter Three covers the function of cultural institutions such as hospitals and the Church; in Hill’s work they become symbols of a controlling patriarchal society serving to produce, shape and perpetuate gender roles through evoking embarrassment, shame and guilt. In the final chapter, the theoretical framework is mapped onto the work of American poet Sharon Olds and British innovative poet, Geraldine Monk. This offers a fresh perspective on these writers whose work illuminates the themes raised in previous chapters and demonstrates the viability of the theoretical framework. The argument of this thesis culminates in considering the frequently overlooked positive effects of embarrassment in relation to gender formation, with a potentially cathartic and transformative influence on the reader.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Themes: Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Funders: Salford University fee waiver
Depositing User: L Winrow
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 16:46
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2016 09:25
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/31163

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