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Durham e-Theses
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Rewriting the Female Tragic Hero

COOPER, NATASHA,SOLI (2015) Rewriting the Female Tragic Hero. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 27 November 2023.


This thesis undertakes an investigation of the female tragic hero, through the engagement of and reflection on intertextual strategies in a range of writings from the classical to the present. Rewritings of female characters became a motif of second-wave feminism, which began in the late 1970s, where intertextual exploration was regarded as a useful feminist tool for revisiting patriarchal constructions of women in literature and other media. In particular, the genre of Tragedy was a key focus for rewriting, the desire to revisit the great tragic female figures of earlier literatures. Beyond this, the application of theories of femininity and feminist theory to female tragic characters provides a lens through which to re-read these characters, as ever-present and ever-evolving stereotypes of female-ness that are still powerful, inspiring and open to rewriting.

The thesis first explores key concepts in discussions of Tragedy and a variety of relevant feminist theories. The thesis then proceeds to focus on a particular canonic tragic period of literature – Classical, Religious, and Renaissance, respectively – while discussing specific characters as representative of female figures of the age, alongside later rewritings of them. Through these readings, the thesis seeks to demonstrate how stereotypes of femininity are constructed, and how they may be demystified. The final chapter further engages some of these stereotypes as they have entered popular culture. By attempting to analyse a corpus of texts from differing time periods and cultures, this thesis develops the suggestion that female characters across time and space have been realised through their depiction as human beings striving for their own authorship and scripts, and so rewriting Tragedy in ways that might now be regarded as “postmodern”.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Dec 2015 11:17

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