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Writing Back Through Our Mothers: A Transnational Feminist Study on the Woman's Historical Novel Open Access


Other title
Transnational feminism
Woman's Historical Novel
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Zimmerman, Tegan
Supervisor and department
Kelly, Gary (Comparative Literature/English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
McCallum, Pamela (English)
Demers, Patricia (Comparative Literature/English and Film Studies)
Braz, Albert (Comparative Literature/English and Film Studies)
Fried, Daniel (Comparative Literature/English and Film Studies)
Wallace, Jo-Ann (Comparative Literature/English and Film Studies)
Comparative Literature

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This transnational feminist study on the contemporary woman’s historical novel (post 1970) argues that the genre’s central theme and focus is the maternal. Analyzing the maternal, disclosed through a myriad of genealogies, voices, and figures, reveals that the historical novel is a feminist means for challenging historical erasures, silences, normative sexuality, political exclusion, divisions of labour, and so on within a historical-literary context. The novels surveyed in this work speak from the margins and spaces of silence within history and the genre. As much as the works contest masculinist master narratives, they also create and envision new genealogies. Each narrative centers on an atypical female protagonist and the role of history is not only visible but also serves as the setting for either the heroine or the author to consciously subject patriarchal values to a gender analysis. Furthermore, there is a maternal connection between the milieu/personal history of the writer and the subject matter/history of the novel, which suggests the simultaneous rewriting of the present by recalling and reclaiming the past. In recuperating and reclaiming the past, the woman’s historical novel puts forth a counter text or a counter version of history, but assumes, contrary to the post-modern techniques many feminist novels employ, a historical reality and a gendered reality that extends beyond the text and that grounds the text. Acknowledging and studying this transnational corpus is, therefore, imperative for expanding and updating the genre’s current masculinist Eurocentric status and bridging new relations between transnational feminism and literature. Collectively, the novels form a femino-centric space–an imagined motherland or matria–wherein patriarchy, Eurocentrism, gender, motherhood, and the nation are fiercely interrogated. The act of writing back through our mothers is a means for making collective and personal arguments for feminist changes; thus, this study contends that a transnational feminist knowledge project on the contemporary woman’s historical novel is necessary, worthwhile, and timely.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
A revised version of this dissertation has been accepted for publication. Zimmerman 2013. London/Berlin: LIT-Verlag.

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