Jones, Natalie Linda (2013)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
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This thesis argues for the innovative potential of an abortion trope, exploring its capacity for conceptual reformulation in both contemporary criticism and the nineteenth-century poetry of Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson. In contemporary deliberations over the ethical and legal legitimacy of abortion, critics will often converge upon aesthetic questions of ‘appropriate analogy’, ‘conceptual errors’ and discursive boundaries. This investigation takes up this point, highlighting its parallel with contemporary anxieties concerning the ‘use’ and ‘autonomy’ of literature. Combining the work of four key critics (Barbara Johnson, Kevin Newmark, Christina Hauck and Maria C. Scott) it will be argued that abortion has already undergone a degree of formulation as a less negative aesthetic, and its manifestation as an aesthetic is presented as governing textual strategies, as well as dynamics between author, reader, and text. The poetry of Hardy and Dickinson offers an invaluable starting-point in which to explore this possibility in practice, clarifying the trope’s characteristics and potential. The abortion trope informing nineteenth-century poetics impacts various aesthetic paradigms during the period, while also shedding light upon conventional perceptions of abortion today. The impetus here is to encourage conceptual expansion and support conceptual change, challenging some of the more debilitating formulations of abortion.
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