The waiting game :anxiety, evil and lack of desire in the writings of Patricia Highsmith

Peters, Fiona (2006) The waiting game :anxiety, evil and lack of desire in the writings of Patricia Highsmith. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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This thesis analyzes a selection of texts by the 'crime fiction' writer Patricia Highsmith. They have been chosen with a view to demonstrating and considering the range of her oeuvre, as well as allowing an identification of the main themes and preoccupations running through her career. Adopting a primarily psychoanalytic perspective, the thesis initially begins by explicating the theoretical premise underlying this choice and explains why Highsmith's work may be usefully approached in this way. In the introductory chapter it questions why this author should have been, given the popularity of the genre within which she has been incorporated, so little researched up until this point. The first section of the thesis offers some explanations for this academic neglect before turning to an examination of the premises of the few theoretical studies on Highsmith that are available. I argue throughout that she is unique within the genre of crime fiction, and seek to demonstrate that, thus far, she has largely thwarted attempts to understand and account for her work. The thesis suggests that, rather than being an issue with the appropriate theorisation of her work or the strengths and weaknesses of her commentators, it is, rather, the specific disturbances within her texts that have resulted in her writing remaining resistant to both easy elucidation and the more sophisticated interpretive strategies that would seek to position her within a genre. It is this above all that denies her the literary status and reputation that, I argue, her writing deserves. The thesis continues by proposing a reading of Highsmith that takes account of and attempts to explore the particular challenges that her writing presents. It suggests that, rather than murder constituting the primary focus of her work, what is most compelling about Highsmith's fiction lies in the less obvious minutiae on which she focuses, and in the gaps between periods of activity, represented through anxiety, waiting, lack of desire and evil. The chapters, 'In the Waiting Room, 'In Exile' and 'Tom Ripley: The Sinthome Writes Back', constitute a close reading of some of Highsmith' s texts, those that, I argue, best represent her recurring preoccupations and reveal her particularity most clearly. The final section of the 'Ripley' chapter moves towards a conclusion: one, however, that does not attempt to 'close down' the insights that the thesis has hopefully achieved, but, instead, to offer suggestions for further readings of her work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Crime fiction; Patricia Highsmith
Related URLs:
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creatives
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2022 09:52
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:57

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