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Durham e-Theses
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‘Restless Birds’: Avian Encounters in the Fiction of the Brontës and Daphne du Maurier

HABIBI, HELENA (2020) ‘Restless Birds’: Avian Encounters in the Fiction of the Brontës and Daphne du Maurier. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Avian encounters pervade the Brontës’ and Daphne du Maurier’s fiction, though a sustained study of this phenomenon has yet to emerge. This thesis engages with critical debates in ecofeminism, animal studies, and vegetarian theory in its examination of interspecies interactions between restless bird-heroines and dead birds. The introduction contextualises these two bodies of work within contemporaneous cultures of gender-inflected avian exploitation and their counter narratives of feminist-vegetarian discourse. Analysis of avian encounters in Anne Brontë’s novels and du Maurier’s memoirs demonstrate intersections between speciesism and gendered oppression, and foreground the challenging questions posed by the thesis regarding the assumed power of humans over other animals.
Chapters one and two establish a complex system of avian gendered politics in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. This includes, amongst other areas, examination of bird consumption, bird hunting, and speciesist language with gendered implications. These two chapters examine the speciesism that underpins the former novel’s celebrated proto-feminist status and the masculinist cultures of avian cruelty that dominate the latter novel. They assess the extent to which bird-women in both novels realise a feminist-vegetarian consciousness with their rejection of bird corpse consumption, revealing the extent to which these women writers explore and interrogate interconnected subjugations. Chapters three to five and the coda investigate this legacy of Brontëan avian gendered politics in a selection of du Maurier’s critically neglected novels and short stories. With its exploration of the ways in which these two bodies of work form a dialogue with each other, this study of avian encounters is also a study of avian afterlives. All of the texts examined in this thesis, by the Brontës and du Maurier, are haunted by restless, exploited, and murdered birds, a presence that reverberates palimpsestuously across time.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Jan 2021 10:21

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