'A complex mixture of fascination and distaste’: Relationships between Women in Pat Barker’s 'Blow Your House Down', 'Liza’s England' and 'Union Street'

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Abstract

This paper explores the women's stories in Pat Barker's three earliest novels: Blow Your House Down, Liza's England and Union Street. Using Kristeva's concepts of temporality from ‘Women's time’, it takes as its starting point the idea that Barker's women are trapped in a harsh cyclical timescale by gender, class and place. Motherhood therefore becomes another form of imprisonment, particularly when father figures are absent. Despite this, there are moments in the texts when women do experience connections that could be described as a more positive version of this cyclical time, one that gestures towards a female tradition, or genealogy. As this suggests, bonds between women in these novels, particularly mothers and daughters, are complex and often troubling, eschewing any easy version of female solidarity. They are more adequately described as bonds based on ‘a complex mixture of fascination and distaste’, evoking Luce Irigaray's work on relationships between women. This paper examines these bonds between women in the light of the work of Kristeva and Irigaray, focusing particularly on the relationships between mothers and daughters, arguably those at the centre of these ambivalent emotions.
LanguageEnglish
Pages249-261
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Volume16
Issue number3
Early online date19 Sep 2007
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2007

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imprisonment
motherhood
England
genealogy
solidarity
father
emotion
gender
experience
time
Julia Kristeva
Daughters
Solidarity
Early Novels
Emotion
Time Scales
Motherhood
Genealogy
Temporality
Novel

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title = "'A complex mixture of fascination and distaste’: Relationships between Women in Pat Barker’s 'Blow Your House Down', 'Liza’s England' and 'Union Street'",
abstract = "This paper explores the women's stories in Pat Barker's three earliest novels: Blow Your House Down, Liza's England and Union Street. Using Kristeva's concepts of temporality from ‘Women's time’, it takes as its starting point the idea that Barker's women are trapped in a harsh cyclical timescale by gender, class and place. Motherhood therefore becomes another form of imprisonment, particularly when father figures are absent. Despite this, there are moments in the texts when women do experience connections that could be described as a more positive version of this cyclical time, one that gestures towards a female tradition, or genealogy. As this suggests, bonds between women in these novels, particularly mothers and daughters, are complex and often troubling, eschewing any easy version of female solidarity. They are more adequately described as bonds based on ‘a complex mixture of fascination and distaste’, evoking Luce Irigaray's work on relationships between women. This paper examines these bonds between women in the light of the work of Kristeva and Irigaray, focusing particularly on the relationships between mothers and daughters, arguably those at the centre of these ambivalent emotions.",
keywords = "gender, history, motherhood, Pat Barker, time, women's relationships",
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