Seeing the self through the everyday and the local a study of maritime women's life writing, 1980-2005
Date de publication2006
This thesis explores the textual construction of everyday and local experiences in Maritime women's life writing in French and in English, written between 1980 and 2005. The goal of this study is to recuperate a corpus of texts that has been understudied and undervalued within the field of Canadian literature in order to reveal the heterogeneity of Maritime women's experiences of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in the region. The everyday and the local provide women with the necessary frameworks to discuss and reflect upon their life experiences. Most women in this study construct their personal, local and even regional identities through their daily actions, their relationships with others and their role within society. The focus of this study is how these constructions reveal twentieth century Maritime society as a gendered society in which women, and especially minority women, are marginalized and often confined within the private sphere of the home. For those who leave the Maritimes, former constraints remain in dialogue with the self's new, sometimes freer disposition. To discover new, previously undervalued knowledge on the region, all the while acknowledging the unique character of every woman's life narrative, this study draws on feminist standpoint theory as well as on theories on the everyday and the local, Maritime history and culture, and women's autobiography. While the analysis privileges the women's textual constructions of everyday and local experiences as valid knowledge on the region, their claims are discussed within their particular social and historical contexts. Although standpoint theory finds its roots in earlier, socialist theories, this analysis is informed by more contemporary, feminist theorists such as Dorothy Smith, Joan Wallach Scott and Sandra Harding. According to those theorists, standpoint theory allows academics to examine the structures of everyday life through the unique knowledge of those who experience it directly. Rather than looking at society from the perspective of ruling groups, such as academia, standpoint theory historicizes and contextualizes the daily experiences of non-ruling groups. This is not a comprehensive survey of all texts written by women from the region since 1980. Nevertheless, a wide variety of texts were included in the initial research and are discussed further in the introduction. Among them, readers will find autobiographies, letters, travelogues, community histories and memoirs written by women from diverse backgrounds.