American Women (re) Writing the Frontier: Domesticity, the Production of Space and Social Relationships in Selected Narratives of the 19th and 20th centuries

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Universite Mouloud MAMMERI Tizi-Ouzou


This thesis examines women’s literary representations of the American Frontier in selected fiction of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It studies the issue of the production of space and social relationships which is embedded in their dialogized discourse. Responding to their male counterparts who see the frontier space as the place of the male renewal and the domestication of the woman, many female authors such as Catherine Maria Sedgwick, Mary Austin, Willa Cather, and Laura Ingalls Wilder appropriated the frontier space to discuss gender-related issues such as social roles, the private and the public spaces. Borrowing the concept of representational space from Henry Lefebvre, it argues that these women writers resort to that grand narrative of American identity and Manifest Destiny in order to show their resistance and participate in the debate on the place of women in the American society. To show their discord with the dominant frontier ideology which represents the woman as silent, dainty, and submissive, they promote a contrasting image, that of a courageous independent woman who enjoys the outdoor space. To reach its aim and investigate the ways in which these American female writers produced space and social relationships, revised the male frontier narrative and challenged the status quo which constricted women’s mobility, the present research adopts a conjunction of perspectives, borrows from spatial, dialogic and feminist theories. The way these U.S. women authors produced space and social relationships is studied in the light of Henry Lefebvre’s spatial theory developed in his book The Production of Space (1991). In this book, Lefebvre explains that it is through movement that the spatial ideologies are produced and transformed. The dialogized discourse of the women writers under study is examined through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of dialogism explained in his books The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (1981) and Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1984). As far as their feminist stance is concerned, the latter is treated in the light of the feminist assumptions of Victoria Walker explained in her article “Feminist Criticism, Anglo-American” (1993).


301f. ; 30 cm. + CD Rom


American women, Domesticity production, The Frontier