Subjection and domination in the work of Ian McEwan
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The thesis identifies the theme of domination and subjection as a significant one in the work of the contemporary English novelist, Ian McEwan. Throughout his work he demonstrates how personal relationships can be seen as a microcosm of wider social and political perspectives. Chapter I contains an introduction to the theme and sets out the various ways in which it is discussed in the thesis. In Chapter II McEwan's treatment of the theme with reference to children is explored, looking especially at his early short stories and his first novel, The Cement Garden. His representation of unequal power relations in families focusses upon siblings' power struggles and the abuses of power exercised by adults upon children. This chapter concludes with an exploration of McEwan's depiction of childhood and adolescence as a time of freedom and resistance. In Chapter III the various representations of sexual domination and subjection are explored, such as sexual sadism and masochism, especially with reference to his second novel, The Comfort of Strangers. McEwan's representation of traditional patriarchal conditions of unequal power distribution invites feminist perspectives to propose possibilities for resistance. In Chapter IV McEwan's representations of the social and political aspects of the drive for mastery are explored, with a particular focus upon Black Dogs and The Innocent. This includes a consideration of his treatment of war as a background to his imaginative work. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the drive for mastery through scientific domination. The final chapter concludes that McEwan's critique of the struggle for mastery through these various realms of dominative practices serves as a commentary on the struggle within unequal power relations which is a feature of the human condition in contemporary society. His writing is therefore arguably a form of resistance to the tendency towards domination and subjection.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosopy
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