Empowering passivity in H.D.’s Madrigal cycle novels

Zorluoğlu, Emel (2017) Empowering passivity in H.D.’s Madrigal cycle novels. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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My thesis re-situates the work of modernist writer, Hilda Doolittle (H.D., 1886–1961) at the intersection of modernism, psychoanalysis, spirituality and passivity. Although H.D. is often claimed to be a feminist writer, there are very few active expressions of feminist anger in her work. Instead, we might turn to psychoanalytic discussions to consider where the anger resides in H.D. Melanie Klein argues that aggression is an innate instinct and art is a means of sublimating that instinct. For H.D, a bisexual mother who experiences war trauma, betrayal, death, stillbirth and breakdown, aggression and anger become a form of artistic energy that allows her to create herself anew. In a sense, her pain and suffering are transformed into an embedded anger that later becomes H.D.’s catalyst to write. I argue that not writing in explicit anger was a deliberate choice, for H.D. yearned to destroy the dichotomies she faced, not to reverse them. To do this, and still reflect her anger, she adopts an unusual passive-aggressive writing strategy. Though passivity might seem like a negative rather than a positive trait to feminist readers, I seek to demonstrate that H.D. manages to extract power from passivity. I explore through Kleinian psychoanalysis the ways in which H.D.’s writing relates to power and passivity and, importantly, to H.D.’s Moravian ancestors, who were, simultaneously, ‘gladly passive’ and powerful. Whilst appearing passive, these narrative strategies also hold the power that H.D. values. As such, Moravian ways of dealing with aggression contribute to the passive-aggressive writing methods that H.D. adopts, such as the roman à clef and palimpsest. In subsequent chapters on Asphodel and Hermione, I reflect on how these two novels represent a place for her to emerge as a powerful voice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0700 Individual authors > PS3500 1900-1960 > PS3507.O726 Doolittle, Hilda, 1886-1961
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2017 06:10
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2019 09:38
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70181

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