Date of Degree

6-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Wayne Koestenbaum

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | Creative Writing | Fiction | Italian Literature | Modern Literature | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Poetry | Women's Studies

Keywords

Creative writing, feminism, notebook, woman writer

Abstract

This thesis is built on the model of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, that is, it is a feminist project of holistic integration that does not reject fracturing, ambiguity, or contradiction, but aims to attain a more complex and thus truer portrait of the woman writing. Lessing’s notebooks examine conflicts between communism and capitalism, racial conflict in Africa, conflict between men and women, and the conflict between the protagonist Anna Wulf’s identity as a woman and her identity as a writer, each of which she then attempts to integrate into the singular golden notebook of the title. I propose to have three ‘notebooks,’ one on the subject of the home, both the site of refuge and the site of exile, of solitude and of isolation, the second on the subject of failure, which is simultaneously a necessary element of writing and its possible extinction, and the third on the subject of love, as both a liberating and an imprisoning emotion, both an incitement to write and the limitation of free autonomy. Each chapter uses a circular structure, in which the fragment, the poem, flash-fiction pieces, recipes, film scenarios and short stretches of autobiography mingle with passages of analysis of literature, film, and music in order to arrive at richer conclusions, creating the impression of a scrapbook or multivalent diary. The literary, cinematic, and musical sources are eclectic. The final chapter, or ‘golden notebook,’ then unites these threads, seeking to create a vision of the writing woman that negates neither her literary nor her feminine status. Both the form and the content reject the idea of an aspirational model of feminism, in which the female writer must be exceptionally talented, successful, and serenely happy, a utopian role model that admits of no uncomfortable truths. Also to be discarded is any notion of a monolithic and conciliatory conclusive statement about who and what the writing woman is that could be transformed into a prescriptive model for how to be a writing woman.

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