Details of Thesis

Title Ariadne’s Thread: Women and Labyrinths in the Fiction of A.S. Byatt and Iris Murdoch
Author Tomazic, Elizabeth Mary
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2005
Abstract This thesis is an investigation of the journeys towards a sense of identity or selfhood, achieved through honest and accurate appreciation of the lives of others, made by several female characters in the fiction of A.S. Byatt and the late Iris Murdoch. I believe that because Byatt and Murdoch value literature as a serious business that teaches as well as entertains, their writing can play a significant role in illuminating the lives of women by means of its portrayal of the resolution of women’s struggles. Women’s lives, despite the rise of feminism, are still not equitable. While many women strive to attain a balance of independence and intimacy – what Thelma Shinn calls a “meronymic” relationship – and connection within community, many do not succeed in this endeavour. The numerous challenges they face are difficult and confronting, and the stories of their efforts resemble journeys through a labyrinth or maze. Byatt acknowledges Murdoch as her literary mother, frequently citing Murdoch’s belief in the ability of literature to improve human life. While Byatt and Murdoch are interested in what characters learn about their relations to others and the world, they make it clear that characters are constructs, not real people. Yet their fiction is an ongoing exploration of the nature of reality and the nature of selfhood, particularly that of women. According to feminist theories, women are more constrained than men, and are therefore the focus of this study, but their experience of constraint is a more complex matter than experience of mere undifferentiated oppression, and is better represented by the structure of the labyrinth than that of the simple, linear journey. I agree with Byatt’s and Murdoch’s view of the importance of fiction as a means of commenting on human relationships, particularly with the notion of the need for connection within community. The labyrinth, together with the Bildungsroman, provides a paradigm for the complex experiences of Byatt’s and Murdoch’s female characters. All the characters in this study struggle to flee from restraint, seek purpose and agency in the world through interaction with others, and escape a feminised Plato’s Cave by learning to see more accurately, and all but one emerge from the maze into an autonomous and independent existence in community with others.
Thesis 01front.pdf  218Kb
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