Variations on a theme: matrilinear relationships in Sybille Bedford’s novels

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Day, Audri

This thesis examines a mother-daughter relationship flawed by betrayal, one closely\ud related to life and that emerges as a meta-scheme in four works by Sybille Bedford.\ud Maternal perfidity is given a different angle in those texts by means of a shifting\ud progression of genres that allow different aspects of the mother-daughter association\ud to be told, and that portray a gradual move to a more explicit rendering found in\ud Bedford’s last work. The scope of the M.Phil. allows a focus on two of the author’s\ud novels. I have chosen the first and the last to chart the generic moves that reveal\ud Bedford’s theme though thematically and generically these are considered in the\ud context of all four in my Chapter One. The first text, A Legacy, is a realist family saga\ud genre allowing an amount of detail and verisimilitude to disguise what will become\ud the major theme. This generic characteristic ensures that a masculine narrative of\ud paternal betrayals, dominates a major proportion of the book, before it finally\ud switches to the maternal deceits at the heart of my thesis. The genre also allows some\ud focus on the grandmother, mother, daughter triad. Bedford’s final novel, Jigsaw: An\ud Unsentimental Education, by deploying the genre of the auto/biographical, a postmodern\ud questioning of biographical writing that highlights the problem of writing\ud truth and constructing feminine subjectivity, comes closer to utilizing those female\ud inter-generational connections as Bedford ignores the grandmother’s influence in\ud order to concentrate on the mother-daughter relationship. My consideration of realism\ud and auto/biography allows a simultaneous theoretical exploration of truth, reality and\ud writing. The larger milieu of Bedford’s protagonists, either the complex family sagas,\ud the London circle or the artists’ group in Sanary, are drawn into this investigation,\ud permitting a closer look at women’s subjectivities alongside psycho-analytic\ud considerations. My contribution to the much neglected scholarship on Bedford\ud includes this analysis of her novels which is informed by my sustained research into\ud the author’s biography, scholarly archival enquiry and notes from personal meetings\ud with the writer.
Share - Bookmark