Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


My thesis, feminist in approach, examines voices of the "concerned middle" through the "female fictions" of six contemporary inheritors of the realist tradition in Canadian literature. With their short stories, Edna Alford, Sandra Birdsell, Joan Clark, Elisabeth Harvor, Carol Shields and Janette Turner Hospital continue the exploration of women's experience in patriarchal society initiated by Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant. Distinctive in their differences, they nevertheless share a "caring" perspective on relationships and a "caring" critique of many aspects of society. And in their attack on patriarchal society's "compartmentalization" of people, ideas and language, these women writers frequently employ boundary-challenging imagery which subtly undermines Western society's "public/private" dichotomy.;For my argument, I am drawing largely on the social psychology of Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice, 1982) and Mary Field Belenky and her colleagues (Women's Ways of Knowing, 1986). This thesis also makes extensive use of interviews conducted with five of the authors, in order to engage with them as women as well as writers and to add their observations to the discussion of a "female" perspective.;The first part of the thesis emphasizes Women's Search for Emotional Community. Chapter Two traces the theme of intimate relationships between women--friends, sisters, mothers and daughters--in an illustration of the "caring" perspective. Taking this perspective in a slightly different direction, Chapter Three proposes women's preference for a "connected knowing" approach to all interpersonal interaction, a preference manifested either through the story's content or narrative stance.;The second part of the thesis focuses on Women's Search for Personal Autonomy. In Chapter Four, stories of diverse themes are seen to contain a "caring" critique of the oppressive "voices" of patriarchal culture. This "caring" critique reappears in "private" life in Chapter Five, which discusses the authors' treatment of traditional gender roles and relationships. Finally, Chapter Six explores various portraits of the female artist, who implicitly challenges traditional, male-defined notions of art and artists. Her creative activity reflects women's search for autonomy within community.



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