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'Staying in the mess': gender, sexuality and queer heterotopic space in Sarah Waters’s neo-historical narratives

Suwa, Akira 2018. 'Staying in the mess': gender, sexuality and queer heterotopic space in Sarah Waters’s neo-historical narratives. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis investigates the way Sarah Waters engages in queer spatiality as well as queer temporality in her historical fiction. Drawing on and extending Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia, a space that is established within society but is able to contest its authority, this thesis argues that Waters’s characters create heterotopic spaces where their desire for queer fulfilment is, if partially and temporarily, achieved. Chapters Two through Five discuss how Waters utilises various types of space to articulate her gender and sexual politics, to call into question heteronormative authority that confines her characters, and to contribute to the creation of heterotopic space that allows the characters’ fulfilment of queer desire: the theatre and space of alternative kinship in Tipping the Velvet (Chapter Two), Italy and metatextual space in Affinity (Chapter Three), the bedroom and the library in Fingersmith (Chapter Three), the kitchen in The Paying Guests (Chapter Four), London during the blitz in The Night Watch (Chapter Four), and a country house in The Little Stranger (Chapter Five). Chapter Six aims to bring all of Waters’s novels together to discuss the queer potential of her queer characters’ act of walking the city to challenge the heteronormativity which abounds in the streets of London. In my Conclusion/Coda, I will consider the possibility of widening the scope of neo-Victorian/historical fiction by analysing The Handmaiden, a film adaptation of Fingersmith set in 1930s Korea. Discussion of the temporal and geographical gaps between Fingersmith and The Handmaiden provides an apt opportunity to return to the key concern of this thesis with the importance of queer spatiality and temporality in Waters’s novels. This thesis addresses Waters’s distinct use of space in understanding the link between her characters’ creation of queer heterotopic space and their yearning for a hopeful future, which is the contemporary reader’s present.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 April 2019
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 02:08

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