Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"The Magic Mirror" Uncanny Suicides, from Sylvia Plath to Chantal Akerman
by Coyne, Kelly Marie, M.A., Georgetown University, 2017, 105; 10272269
Abstract (Summary)

Artists such as Chantal Akerman and Sylvia Plath, both of whom came of age in mid-twentieth century America, have a tendency to show concern with doubles in their work—Toni Morrison’s Beloved , Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman—and oftentimes situate their protagonists as doubles of themselves, carefully monitoring the distance they create between themselves and their double. This choice acts as a kind of self-constitution, by which I mean a self-fashioning that works through an imperfect mirroring of the text’s author presented as a double in a fictional work. Texts that employ self-constitution often show a concern with liminality, mirroring, consumption, animism, repressed trauma, suicide, and repetition.

It is the goal of this thesis to examine these motifs in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and the early work of Chantal Akerman, all of which coalesce to create coherent—but destabilizing—texts that propose a new queer subject position, and locate the death drive—the desire to return to the mother’s womb—as their source. I will examine the uncanny on various levels, zooming out from the micro-level elements of the text to its broader relationship to its environment: from rhetoric, to the physical landscapes of the texts, to characters of the text, to the structure of the text (as confined by its frame), and then, finally, outside the text itself, to the author’s relationship with her double. What I will argue here is that Akerman and Plath—in doubling on both the extradiegetic and intradiegetic levels of their work—propose a queer liminal space that siphons and ultimately expels repressed uncanny desire, allowing for both self-sustainability and personal integrity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Luciano, Dana, Corrigan, Maureen
Commitee:
School: Georgetown University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 56/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Literature, Gender studies, Film studies
Keywords: Akerman, Chantal, Plath, Sylvia, The Bell Jar
Publication Number: 10272269
ISBN: 978-1-369-73502-4
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