University of Leicester
2011Howard-LaityEJPhD.pdf (1.05 MB)

Writing wrongs : re-vision and religion in contemporary women‘s fiction

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posted on 2014-03-24, 12:17 authored by Elizabeth Jane Howard-Laity
This thesis examines in what ways contemporary women writers have revised Biblical figures and texts in order to challenge and deconstruct male authority, how previously silenced female voices are given speech through a new feminist religious discourse, and how women have renegotiated male ‘power’ for female empowerment. Focusing on five different Biblical figures or groups of women, Eve, the wives and daughters of Abraham, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and medieval female virgin martyr saints are examined in turn through the re-visionary fiction of nine authors. Examining both literary authors such as Angela Carter, Michèle Roberts, Jenny Diski and Emma Tennant and popular ones such as Penelope Farmer and Dan Brown, as well as several authors who have received little previous attention such as Anita Diamant, Sue Reidy and Ann Chamberlin, this thesis highlights the multiple and subjective nature of feminist re-vision of the Bible, while simultaneously exposing the pre-existing subjectivity within their foundational texts. By identifying how contemporary women writers both re-read and re-write received history, this thesis brings to the fore the transgressive potential of a tradition of women‘s religious writing that is marked by its marginalised position. Beginning with the suggestion that patristic origin myths validate the invisibility of women, I investigate how a focus on non-canonical and apocryphal traditions can give speech to previously silenced female voices, allowing for reconfigurations of gender beyond the patriarchally defined models of the Bible. Predicated upon Adrienne Rich‘s view of re-vision as ‘an act of survival’, this thesis suggests that religious discourse continues to affect cultural conceptions of gender. This thesis proposes therefore that feminist Biblical re-vision is just such an act of survival in which biased assumptions perpetuated about women can be exposed and problematised in order to both ‘write’ and ‘right’ the wrongs of the Bible.



Parker, Emma

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of English

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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