'I believe in love': A. L. Kennedy and the quest for happy ever after
Tomlin, Frances Charlotte
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This thesis focuses on a close analysis of A. L. Kennedy's fictional work, both novels and short stories, examining the author’s portrayals of love and placing them in a cultural and historical context. Kennedy's fiction invariably centres on the complex nature of human relationships, with protagonists frequently placed in an isolated situation (physically, mentally, or both) and yearning for some deep emotional connection, through love or sex, to form a link with the world which surrounds them. This thesis pays close attention to character and plot development, use of language and connections between Kennedy's texts, alongside a discussion of various sociological, philosophical or psychological works which tie Kennedy's fiction to both current and historical analyses of sexual behaviour, love and gender relationships. Different aspects of love and relationships are explored within each chapter, divided as follows: Belonging, Identity, Place – examining how far and how useful it is to view Kennedy as a Scottish writer, going on to explore how notions of place and belonging affect her characters, beginning with the body-as-place and working outwards, through contrasting urban and rural locations to return to questions of nation, and how a sense of belonging can enhance the feeling of connectedness central to love. Sex and Violence – analysing the relationship between sex and violence and questioning whether the two are opposing or may actually stem from the same desire to reconnect with the body and thus link the body more closely to the mind, whilst simultaneously connecting with others. Unity and Isolation – more closely examining this powerful conflict within Kennedy's work; the fear of being alone and the opposing fear of losing one's individuality, one's self, through being open with and giving love to another, and exploring how such conflict may be resolved. Desire and Addiction – exploring the relationship between desire and addiction and considering whether the terms can be interchangeable, and which of Kennedy's characters may be considered desiring or addicted. Ultimately this chapter argues that while desire and addiction may have similarities, desire itself is more desirable, because it relies upon some degree of connection not necessary within addiction. Trauma, 'Madness' – examining the boundaries between trauma and the concept of 'madness', this chapter argues the possibility that many of Kennedy's characters could be seen as traumatised in one way or another, and looks at how this may affect their ability to love, and their attitudes towards it. Romance – attempting to place a definition of romance within the context of British fiction, this chapter considers the development of the romantic narrative, including contemporary 'Chick-Lit', to argue that it is possible to view Kennedy herself as a romantic writer, given the questing nature of her fictions and the love towards which her characters ultimately strive. Within Kennedy's writing there is a contradiction expressed in the portrayal of characters simultaneously desperate for love and fighting against the loss of their (often miserable) individuality. The purpose throughout these chapters is to emphasise the many elements which can constitute the notion of 'love', and the ways in which these can either threaten or enhance the development of a sense of self, through developing connection with another. The aim of this research is to provide a new perspective on Kennedy's work, acknowledging the somewhat bleak nature of her writing but examining more specifically the romantic attitudes expressed within her fiction, the manner in which she explores the boundaries between realism and the concept of romance, and the question of whether she may be defined as a romantic writer, which will draw upon the history of romantic literary tropes and structures.