The gender of belief: Women and Christianity in T. S. Eliot and Djuna Barnes

Show simple item record Pollard, Jacqueline Anne 2010-04-26T21:35:14Z 2010-04-26T21:35:14Z 2009-09
dc.description x, 175 p. A print copy of this thesis is available through the UO Libraries. Search the library catalog for the location and call number. en_US
dc.description.abstract This dissertation considers the formal and thematic camaraderie between T. S. Eliot and Djuna Barnes. The Waste Land 's poet, whom critics often cite as exemplary of reactionary high modernism, appears an improbable companion to Nightwood 's novelist, who critics, such as Shari Benstock, characterize as epitomizing "Sapphic modernism." However, Eliot and Barnes prove complementary rather than antithetical figures in their approaches to the collapse of historical and religious authority. Through close readings, supplemented by historical and literary sources, I demonstrate how Eliot, in his criticism and poems such as "Gerontion," and Barnes, in her trans-generic novel Nightwood , recognize the instability of history as defined by man and suggest the necessity of mythmaking to establish, or confirm, personal identity. Such mythmaking incorporates, rather than rejects, traditional Christian signs. I examine how, in Eliot's poems of the 1920s and in Barnes's novel, these writers drew on Christian symbols to evoke a nurturing, intercessory female parallel to the Virgin Mary to investigate the hope for redemption in a secular world. Yet Eliot and Barnes arrive at contrary conclusions. Eliot's poems increasingly relate femininity to Christian transcendence; this corresponds with a desire to recapture a unified sensibility, which, Eliot argued, dissolved in the post-Reformation era. In contrast, Barnes's Jewish and homosexual characters find transcendence unattainable. As embodied in her novel's characters, the Christian feminine ideal fails because the idealization itself extends from exclusionary dogma; any aid it promises proves ineffectual, and the novel's characters, including Dr. Matthew O'Connor and Nora Flood, remain locked in temporal anguish. Current trends in modernist studies consider the role of myth in understanding individuals' creation of self or worldview; this perspective applies also in analyzing religion's role insofar as it aids the individual's search for identity and a place in history. Consequently, this dissertation helps to reinvigorate the discussion of religion's significance in a literary movement allegedly defined by its secularism. Moreover, in presenting Eliot and Barnes together, I reveal a kinship suggested by their deployment of literary history, formal innovation, and questions about religion's value. This study repositions Barnes and brings her work into the canonical modernist dialogue. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship Committee in charge: Paul Peppis, Chairperson, English; Suzanne Clark, Member, English; John Gage, Member, English; Jenifer Presto, Outside Member, Comparative Literature en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.publisher University of Oregon en_US
dc.relation.ispartofseries University of Oregon theses, Dept. of English, Ph. D., 2009;
dc.subject Gender en_US
dc.subject Belief en_US
dc.subject Women in literature en_US
dc.subject Christianity in literature en_US
dc.subject Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965 en_US
dc.subject Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood en_US
dc.subject Modern literature en_US
dc.subject Women's studies en_US
dc.subject American literature en_US
dc.subject Gender studies en_US
dc.subject Femininity in literature
dc.title The gender of belief: Women and Christianity in T. S. Eliot and Djuna Barnes en_US
dc.title.alternative Women and Christianity in T. S. Eliot and Djuna Barnes en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US

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