'The perfect hostess, he called her': reading phenomenology in modernist literature

Shaw, Justine Avril (2017) 'The perfect hostess, he called her': reading phenomenology in modernist literature. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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The question of sexual difference is missing from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s existential phenomenology and from Jacques Derrida’s theory of hospitality. I address these gaps by using a feminist phenomenological perspective to read modernist representations of the “hostess”. I argue for a broadened understanding of “hosting” that encompasses how women use their lived bodies to tend to the social and physical needs of other lived bodies. In chapter one, I use Virginia Woolf’s work to discover the “perfect” party‐giving hostess. I suggest that the heroic hosting of party‐giving is predicated on a more habitual, daily form of hosting. In the subsequent chapters, I explore the developmental stages in the life of the hostess. In chapter two, I read Woolf and Merleau--‐Ponty in tandem to witness the initiation of the hosting mentality in the childhood home. In chapter three, I close read descriptions of adolescent girls dancing in Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, and Katherine Mansfield alongside the work of Iris Marion Young, to reveal the objectification of young female bodies as “future hostesses”. My fourth chapter focuses on maternal hospitality. Inspired by Luce Irigaray, I argue that D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Merleau‐Ponty problematically appropriate maternal hospitality. Mina Loy contributes a female modernist perspective of the lived bodily experience of childbirth. In my final chapter, I discuss hospitality and death. With James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf, I explore the “funeral‐giving hostess”. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of “hosting‐after‐death” as a way to describe the bodily and social care that women perform, or fail to perform, for what I term “lived dead bodies” in Lawrence’s work. Throughout, I contend that failing to adequately recognise women’s habitual and heroic hospitality devalues the important work that women perform for other bodies throughout their lives. In doing this, I carve a space for the hostess within traditional discourses of hospitality, and I develop the discussion of female‐bodies‐in‐situation that Merleau‐Pontian phenomenology lacks.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General) > B0790 Modern (1450/1660-) > B0808 Special topics and schools of philosophy > B0944.P48 Phenomenology
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0045 Theory. Philosophy. Esthetics > PN0045.5 Relation to and treatment of special elements, problems, and subjects > PN0056.A-Z Other special. Topics A-Z > PN0056.H66 Hospitality
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2017 10:40
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70450

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