The Other Side of Silence: The Life and Work of Mary Webb

Davie, Rosalind (2018) The Other Side of Silence: The Life and Work of Mary Webb. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Erika Duncan has commented that ‘because of the intangible sentimental quality of Mary Webb’s special genius, there has been a general reluctance to acknowledge her as a major writer.’ This thesis argues against such dismissive approaches to Webb and makes a case for a re-evaluation of Webb as an unusual writer of pantheist spirituality and nature mysticism and one who can now be appreciated for the ecopoetics of her work. Within this framework the study charts the stylistic qualities of her writing and its mutative shifts through a chronological examination of her work which also includes a biographical account of her life and the major influences which shaped her ideas and writing. Aspects of inter-textuality with other writers will be considered throughout and will underscore the value of Webb’s work whilst emphasising the unique and beautiful quality of her voice. The first chapter, ‘Early Responses’, considers her formative experiences and her earliest essays and poems. ‘Mythological Motifs’ then reviews the mythopoeic nature of Webb’s first two novels and her use of myth in furthering her themes. The ensuing chapter, ‘Preceptive Perception’, evaluates both the didacticism in authorial style and the pertinence of Webb’s vision which are features of her third book. Chapter Four discusses her final two completed volumes as ‘A Dyad’ for they represent, respectively, her weakest and her finest writing. The final chapter, ‘A Medieval Message’, focuses on Webb’s last, incomplete, work, analysing its experimental qualities and its potential to reveal Webb’s last efforts to leave a parting missive for her readers before her death. Central critical concepts are that: in the development of Webb’s religious views from conventional Christianity to pantheism she anticipated modern feminist spirituality; and, in her insistence upon the supreme value of nature and its continual risk from human exploitation in connection with the oppression of women and their need for spiritual freedom, Webb is an unrecognised ecofeminist who was reflecting early twentieth-century issues. In addition, I attempt to discover reasons for Webb’s neglect and positively propose a place for her in literary studies. A Conclusion will summarise the main arguments and indicate possible further avenues of research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mary Gladys Webb (25 March 1881 – 8 October 1927); Poetry; Prose; English novelist; English 20th century literature
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR111 Women authors
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR500 Poetry
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR750 Prose > PR821 Prose fiction. The novel
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2018 13:16
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:55

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