Cultural translationsA comparative critical study of Kate Roberts and Virginia Woolf

Authors Organisations
Type

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Thesis sponsors
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
Award date20 Mar 2001
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Abstract

This thesis offers a comparative critical study of Virginia Woolf and her lesser known contemporary, the Welsh author Kate Roberts. To the majority of readers in the `English-speaking world', the name of one of these writers is so familiar that it may be considered a literary touchstone, while that of the other is still almost entirely unknown. Written from the perspective of a minority culture, this thesis traces the faultlines-that is, previously unexplored sites of tension-within the respective cultural identities of the writers under discussion.
Scrutinising such faultlines helps to illuminate the more paradoxical aspects of the work of both Roberts and Woolf. For example, a focus on Roberts's cultural positioning forces a significant reassessment of Woolf's relationship with English literary traditions and a more informed consideration of her attitude towards the British Empire. Conversely, the large body of criticism on the gendered aspects of Woolf's writing provides a highly relevant framework within which to explore the hitherto neglected sexual politics of Roberts's work, together with the ways in which her identity as a woman intersects with, and in fact conflicts with, her cultural identity.
Drawing upon Frederic Jameson's notion of genre as a social institution, I explore the generic forms deployed by Woolf and Roberts in terms of their cultural specificity. The question of genre can in fact be seen as a crucial aspect of the issues discussed in this thesis-cultural positioning, gender and writing, aesthetics and politics. In this study I examine the output of Roberts and Woolf in five different genres autobiography, short stories, the war novel, drama and journalism. In each case such questions-of community and audience, literary tradition, gendered engagements with that tradition, and the forging of a self-conscious cultural aesthetics-are uppermost.

Keywords

  • Virginia Woolf, Kate Roberts