Living Mirror: The Representation of Doubling Identities in the British and Polish Women’s Literature (1846 – 1938)
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The present thesis offers a comparative analysis of the theme of feminine doubling, which has not yet been taken into academic consideration. It examines the strategies of construction of relationships bonding mother-figures, daughter-figures, and father-figures in the various texts selected for inclusion in this dissertation from British and Polish literature. The key argument is that the tie between feminine doubles can be positive. A mother-figure (or the first wife) is capable of sharing her experiences with her daughter-figure (or the second wife). The second pivot of this exploration is the figure of a sexual mother. The dissertation comprises three parts. The aim of the first section of the thesis is to provide an introduction to the broad cultural context of the mid-nineteenth- to early twentieth-century Polish literature. The second, pivotal part is an exploration of the themes of feminine doubling and feminine sexuality as manifested in the Polish texts, including Narcyza Żmichowska’s The Heathen, Maria Konopnicka’s “Miss Florentine”, Maria Komornicka’s “On Father and his Daughter” and Zofia Nałkowska’s “Green Shore”. It also consists of an interrogation of the shifts occurring in the plot of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca: these shifts concern the protagonists and the nature of their relationships with the sexual mother-figures. The present analysis stems from the conviction that a comparative reinterpretation of the two novels has been largely overlooked so far. The aim of the thesis is to apply various theoretical approaches that enable the reader to bring together the Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis and écriture féminine. The broad psychoanalytical context, including the works of the forgotten Freudian scholar Sabina Spielrein, provides a basis for the comparison. It also enables a profound, intertextual, and inspiring analysis. The thesis is meant to provide a much-needed new reading of Polish women's literature in a comparative structure, so that these texts may be afforded their appropriate position within the British and Polish critique. The innovative features of the research include its comparative character, and the implementation of various psychoanalytical approaches to the Polish works. Additionally, the thesis focuses on literary analysis. It incorporates the findings of various scholars interested in issues associated with “femininity”: it emphasises the importance of gender and feminist issues to the literary (re)interpretation of women’s texts. The present investigation is not conclusive and should be viewed as a stepping stone for further comparative exploration of Polish novels penned by women.
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