Date of Award:
Master of Arts (MA)
Rereading and Rewriting Women's History by Jacqueline Haley Harris, Master of Science Utah State University, 2008 Major Professor: Dr. Evelyn Funda Department: English In Margaret Atwood's nonfiction book Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002), Atwood discusses the importance of the female writer's responsibility, that to write as a woman or about women means that you take upon yourself the responsibility of writing as a form of negotiation with our female dead and with what these dead took with them'the truth about who they were. By rereading and rewriting our communal past, women writers pay tribute to our female ancestors by voicing their silent stories while also changing gender stereotypes, complicating who these women were, and acknowledging their accomplishments. In her 1999 novel Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier revisions the unknown object of Vermeer's famous painting of the same name. By so doing, Chevalier takes a painting created from a male point-of-view and brings the historic female in the painting to life by giving her a backstory. In Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue, published in the same year, Vreeland also follows this female framework as she writes of a woman named Saskia who discovers a Vermeer painting and who invents and imagines the female perspective behind the artwork's female subject. In so doing, Saskia finds value in remembering the life of another woman and hope that someone will remember her life as well. In Willa Cather's 1931 novel Shadows on the Rock, Cather depicts female characters who challenge traditional stereotypes while also rereading women's objective historical past. 'Toinette Gaux, prostitute and descendent of King Louis XIV's filles du roi, and Jeanne Le Ber, Quebec's religious recluse, have historical credibility as the unappreciated mothers of Canada through their defiance of the use of their bodies as colonial commodities within revolutionary gender roles. And in Cather's short story 'Coming, Aphrodite!' (1920) she includes characterization and imagery recollective of French artist Fernand Léger depicting artist Eden Bowen as another female who owns her sexuality and body and will not let herself be objectified by the painter Don Hedger. Atwood, Chevalier, Vreeland, and Cather all demonstrate rereading and rewriting of women in women's history in order to add missing female perspective to our male-authored past while also giving voice to female dead who need to have their stories told. (85 pages)
Harris, Jacqueline, "Rereading and Rewriting Women's History" (2008). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 19.
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