Making a life from the margins: The oblique art of Barbara Pym.

Making a life from the margins: The oblique art of Barbara Pym.

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Title: Making a life from the margins: The oblique art of Barbara Pym.
Author: Paryas, Phyllis Margaret.
Abstract: This study examines the grounds of dissonance in the comic novels of Barbara Pym (1913-1980) from a pluralist critical perspective. Pym's restrained and indirect style is considered as a manifestation of the marginal positioning of a middle-class woman writer within the specific cultural milieu of pre- and post-war Britain. Structuralist, post-formalist and feminist criticism are utilized in an attempt to shed light on the contradictory forces discernible in her subtle prose. Six books were published between 1950 and 1961, followed by her publisher's rejection of a seventh novel in 1963. Pym's career was eclipsed for sixteen years but she was rediscovered in 1977, enabling three additional novels to be published before her death in 1980. Four complete novels, along with three finished short stories and three novel drafts, have been printed posthumously. The introduction provides an overview of the common preoccupation of Pym criticism to date with the ambiguities and tensions in her work. Chapter One presents the argument for a pluralist approach and discusses scholars whose work illuminates Pym's style. These include Northrop Frye, M. M. Bakhtin, Frank Kermode and anthropologists Edwin and Shirley Ardener. Anglo-American critics Elaine Showalter, Nancy K. Miller and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, among others, contribute a feminist perspective. The remaining four chapters explore the language of Pym's protagonists, the characterization of her "excellent women," the fruitfulness of applying dialogic analysis to her prose, and the revisions of plot teleology which she initiates. Pym finally is seen as an essentially optimistic but divided woman writer negotiating painful compromises for her marginal comic heroines within the formidable constraints of the dominant culture.
Date: 1992
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/7573

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