Defining the Home from Chopin to McCarthy

Turner, Helen (2013) Defining the Home from Chopin to McCarthy. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The relationship between home, domesticity and space in American Literature has been the source of much critical debate and discussion. Although the physical space is now settled the ideology of the frontier and the need for continuous expansion still permeates American culture. Additionally, the cultural imperative to traverse new ground, both ideologically and physically, is a resounding American philosophy which pervades the frontier narrative. Viewing the frontier from a gendered perspective, for example as domesticated or active, revises the concept of the frontier which depicts women seizing the masculine role of quester. The emphasis of this study is in the exploration of the construction of home and journeying in select works from authors Kate Chopin to Cormac McCarthy whose writing frames a period of just over one hundred years, in order to discern if the cultural myth of the pastoral shifts or remains static. This is achieved by highlighting the contrast between the expectations and real experience of the West in the groups of pioneers and migrants who are depicted throughout this period. The West in this study is thus portrayed as idealised space sustained by pastoral myths and defines the land as representative of both freedom and confinement. The issues of freedom, confinement and the land are also examined through the expectations and limitations placed on the female through the ‗Cult of True Womanhood‘ and Chopin, Cather, Glaspell and Robinson‘s non-conformist attitude to this feminine archetype. The main conclusions drawn from the exploration of texts are the interconnectivity between home and the ‗unheimlich‘ and homesickness, the blurred boundaries between the static and the mobile with regards to ‗home‘, and the continuous quest for new frontiers.

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