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


Day, A. 2014. Variations on a theme: matrilinear relationships in Sybille Bedford’s novels. Thesis Middlesex University Science and Technology
TitleVariations on a theme: matrilinear relationships in Sybille Bedford’s novels
AuthorsDay, A.

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

Department nameScience and Technology
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print05 Nov 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Nov 2015
AcceptedAug 2014
Output statusPublished
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