• BELL, Marcia Anne.

- Courting the elements : Jane Urquhart's novels and the material imagination.

Résumé de Thèse par l'étudiant

Approaching Urquhart's fiction from the perspective of the "material imagination," this dissertation demonstrates how the elements traditionally held to constitute matter structure the themes, plots, characterizations, images and symbols of her novels. Utilizing the theoretical perspective of Gaston Bachelard who holds that the material cause is the basis of all symbolic thought and that each element generates its own distinctive poetical universe, this study examines how water in The Whirlpool, air in Changing Heaven, and earth, water and minerals in Away stamp their unique characteristics on the protagonists, plots, themes, images and symbols of each text. The Whirlpool, based upon the "lower," heavier elements of earth and water, explores the terrain of the underworld, this lower-world focus generating the funereal and nocturnal images throughout the text. The dominant element of water, imaged in the pent-up, circling waters of the whirlpool, shapes the novel's themes of memory, obsession, death and rebirth, its images of mazes and labyrinths, and the psychological condition of its protagonists. Changing Heaven, a novel of the upper world, derives its imaginative qualities from the element of air and the varied types of weather it conveys. Rising because of its levity, air conditions a novel which takes an aerial view of time, relationships and fiction itself. Weather symbolism is explored as a topos in literature with Changing Heaven considered as part of this tradition. Urquhart's elemental focus on earth, water, and minerals shapes the triple themes of Away: the mystical trance which takes one "away" from the mundane world, geographical and cultural relocations which thwart one's sense of home and centredness, and the entrancements of love or politics which equally disrupt one's grounding. Images of repose are distinguished from images of resistance in analyzing the material imagination in Away. In affirming the roots of images and symbols in the concrete reality of the senses, Urquhart's writing not only reconciles ideational and material realities but suggests a means of revitalizing literature and literary criticism through emphasizing the representational as well as dynamic capacity of the literary imagination.