Revising the Invisible: Autobiographies by New Zealand Women
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
I define deconstructive feminist criticism as the reading of woman as sign in language and social systems. My hermeneutics acknowledge dominant constructions of woman, yet give credence to alternative female discursive technologies. This textual approach permits a coordination of feminist and deconstructive theories, by accepting that woman is always already constructed in language. The deconstructive fulcrum is the premise rather than the obstruction to female inscriptions of identity and subjectivity. Women enter the literary sphere through the schism between signifier and signified, as they attempt to reconstitute an autos which has been overwritten by exterior signifying systems. Concurrently, prioritising the graphie allows a revalidation of the study of autobiography in the cynical postmodern setting. Sylvia Ashton-Warner's I Passed this Way, Robin Hyde's A Home in this World and Janet Frame's An Autobiography are assessed within this interpretative paradigm. The three autobiographical texts are located at an intersection between dominant patriarchal discourses and a latent matrilineal tradition. I trace their nascent gestures towards the (m)Other as signifier of this alternative female continuum. In addition, each text offers a subsidiary solution to the problematics of the woman artist. I propose a strategic subtext of displaced desire for Ashton-Warner, a transgressive dialect(ic) of madness for Robin Hyde, and the elevation of language to transcendental signifier for Janet Frame. In the overarching framework of my thesis, these thematics will cross and recross as threads of subversive narrative strategies which are a women's poetics.