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Recovering Women: History, Trauma, and Gender in Michèle Roberts’s In the Red Kitchen

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journal contribution
posted on 2011-10-27, 12:06 authored by Emma Parker
Michèle Roberts, author of twelve novels (as well as three volumes of poetry, two short story collections and a memoir) and currently Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, has stated that much of her fiction is concerned with rescuing women “or other ‘lost voices’, people who’ve been written out of history” (Newman 121). Her fifth novel, In the Red Kitchen (1990) - recently republished as Delusion (2008) - is a historical novel that reflects Roberts’s prevailing concerns: the damaging impact of patriarchy, the social and psychological facets of female oppression, the enduring effect of childhood fears and desires, the workings of the unconscious, and the importance of imagination. Like all her work, In the Red Kitchen reimagines the lives of women by rewriting patriarchal narratives, but it also marks the beginning of her focus on historical figures, a shift that entails a questioning of history itself. Various critics have discussed Roberts’s treatment of history in relation to this novel. This essay builds on existing criticism by proposing that In the Red Kitchen not only constructs counter-histories that contest a dominant version of the past but also explores how cultural memory is retrieved and transmitted. Further, I show that Roberts underlines connections between the personal and the political by paralleling problems encountered in the recovery of women’s history with the difficulties faced by her female protagonists as they struggle to recover, and recover from, their own painful pasts. [Taken from the introduction]



Contemporary Women's Writing, 2008, 2 (2), pp. 111-130


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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Contemporary Women's Writing following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Contemporary Women's Writing, 2008, 2 (2), pp. 111-130 is available online at:



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