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"Literary Incest":
Intertextuality and Writing the Last Taboo in the Novels of Iris Murdoch

MILLER, EMMA,VICTORIA (2011) "Literary Incest":
Intertextuality and Writing the Last Taboo in the Novels of Iris Murdoch.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Throughout her literary oeuvre Iris Murdoch displayed a preoccupation with the theme of incest, a consideration which has not previously been examined in a full length critical study. Her portrayal of the incest taboo is examined here in relation to incest as an abusive practice, which is the predominant image of the subject throughout her fiction. Examining the changes in scientific and cultural attitudes to incest in the post-war era, this thesis explores Murdoch’s literary interaction with these developments and how her writing reflects and challenges the social perspective contemporaneous with her individual works.
The argument is concerned with the relationship between intertextuality and incest in Murdoch’s fiction and how she utilises an intertextual approach to confront dominant literary trends within the Western canon, occasioning the reader to reconsider the views presented by well-known literary and cultural narratives and their modes of expression. The examination of other ‘texts’ is not limited to the written word but to any art object which conveys a culturally recognised narrative and which relates to her presentation of the incest taboo.
Incest was brought to the public forum partly by the second wave of feminism and the revelation of incest abuse coincided with the public recognition of child abuse more generally and thereby occasioned concern over the rights of children. Accordingly, therefore, this thesis focuses on the impact of a history of patriarchal domination on the suppression of women and children, and how this has affected the ability for incest victims to find a means of expression within a language, and therefore a literary culture, defined and designed by others. Murdoch is approached here through her concern with gendered stories and gendered means of communication, not in order to privilege one sex over the other but, anticipating third-wave feminism, employing them as a means to dispense with sexual difference and sexual expectations, in order to reach an androgynous narrative. Such literary concerns can be seen to draw not only from a process of the cultural evolution of narratives, but also out of the wider literary sphere, to affect social change.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Iris Murdoch, Intertextuality, Gender, Taboo, Incest, Sexuality, Feminism, Realism, Religion, Morality, Postmodernism, Novel, Post-War, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Sigmund Freud, Lord Byron, Lord Tennyson, Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 Aug 2011 14:37

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