Example Honours Essay Proposals
Honours Thesis Proposal
Sarah Thrasher September 18, 1998
Composed with a remarkable lucidity and grace, the works of Barbara Gowdy consistently foreground the marginalized in an
attempt to give voice to the traditionally silenced "other." The idea of the "grotesque," while fundamentally rooted in the
perverse, is embraced by Gowdy as a vehicle through which to explore the emancipatory potential of "otherness." Seizing
the liminal space of the carnivalized body, she interrogates the boundaries between the freakish and ordinary, the bizarre
and the banal, in so doing, exposing hitherto concealed doctrines of normalcy within our culture.
In particular, it is within the institution of the family that the "grotesque" sensibility comes to fruition in many of Gowdy's
works. Penetrating the veneer of the nuclear family paradigm, from her pseudo-romantic vision of the Malone clan in
Through the Green Valley, to her fantastical portrait of the Canarys in Mister Sandman, she investigates the secrets
harbored behind closed doors. By presenting the home as a locus of eccentric activity, her domestic Gothic creations
systematically deconstruct those standards of normative behaviour by underscoring that "even in so-called perfect families
there are webbed feet and kleptomaniacs, perverted gerbils, some loony genius ancestor" (Gowdy, Sandman 246).
The theoretical approach espoused by Mikhail Bakhtin lends itself remarkably well to Gowdy's work given its affirmation of
the "dialogic," that is, theembracing of simultaneous differences over a single, monolithic discourse. Her stories, by
exposing the hegemonic workings of culture to often hilarious, but ultimately serious effect, subsequently allow for a much
more fluid, polyvocal understanding of the "grotesque" consciousness, the ulterior, alternative self that vigorously,
systematically, yet playfully oppresses itself to the world of the "normal."
Gowdy, Barbara. Falling Angels. Toronto: Somerville House, 1996.
---. Mister Sandman. Toronto: Somerville House, 1996.
---. Through the Green Valley. London: Piatkus, 1988.
---. We so Seldom Look on Love. Toronto: Somerville House, 1996.
---. The White Bone. Toronto: Harper Collins, 1998.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981.
Beddoes, Julie. "From Post Age to New Age: Mister Sandman." Canadian Literature 154, Autumn (1997): 132-134.
Benson, Eugene and William Toyle, eds. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1997.
Danow, David K. The Spirit of Carnival: Magic Realism and the Grotesque. Lexinton: U of Kentucky P, 1995.
Degan, John. "All in the Family: Mister Sandman." Books in Canada 24:6. Sept. (1995): 26-27.
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory. 2nd Ed. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996.
Garvie, Maureen. "Mister Sandman." Quill and Quire 61:8. Aug. (1995): 24.
Heighton, Stephen. "Hybrid Vigor: A Survey of Six First Collections of Stories." Quarry 42:3 (1993): 85-96.
Hutcheon, Linda. The Canadian Postmodern. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1988.
Kelman, Susanne. "CanLit's Bad Girls." Chatelaine. Oct. 1994: 107-111.
Kleanthous, Loucas. "My Lunch with Barbara Gowdy." Flare. July 1997: 100.
Lockhead, Gordon. "Looking on Love." Books in Canada 22:1. Feb. (1993): 14-16.
Makaryk, Irena, ed. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1993.
Martens, Debra. "The Flesh Made Word: Body and Soul in the Works of Barbara Gowdy." Paragraph 15:1. Summer (1993): 15-19.
Nickson, Elizabeth. "In the Skin of an Elephant." Saturday Night. Sept. 1998: 56-63.
Russo, Mary. The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess and Modernity. New York: Routledge, 1995.
Smith, Stephen. "Secret Services: Barbara Gowdy." Quill and Quire 61:8. Aug. (1995): 1, 23.
Thomson, Philip. The Grotesque. London: Methuen, 1972.
***Video: Interview with Barbara Gowdy on Ziggy (Bravo).
Prospectus for Honours Thesis 1998-99
Christi E. Davis
During the school year of 1998/99, I wish to throw a new light on the role of women in Shakespeare, by looking at the
heroines in the plays Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear, with the aid of some recent feminist theory. It is my
belief that the characters of Lady Macbeth, Juliet, and Cordelia are women who, for all their strength and passion,
have not been given their full credit. For centuries their male counterparts--Macbeth, Romeo, and King Lear--have
won the spotlight, and little concern has been bestowed upon the tragic heroines. I want to open up the possibility
that Shakespeare was more aware of the significance of women to society than he has been credited. This would
explain why he creates such creatures of monumental capacity as Lady Macbeth, Juliet, and Cordelia--women noted
for their mental and sexual strength. None of these women were so weak as to succumb to the narrow confinements
which their gender dictated, and they displayed great ability to carry their full weight within their respective plots.
The voices of these women, as powerful as they might have been, were not always able to be heard over the roar of
their leading men, and this is the cause which I would endeavor to aid through my research on this topic. I want to
show that the women of Shakespearean tragedies were not always the victim, but instead were underrated and
overlooked in their potential.
A rationale for such a project is provided by the changed position of women in our society today. Women are realizing
the full breadth of their untapped mental abilities and sensual capabilities, and are reaching out to embrace it. Thus,
society would find great interest in a project dealing with feminism and women's equality with men, as it involves an
issue highly relevant to our times. It seems only fitting to research the possibility that Shakespeare, a great writer
of the past, was himself aware of the emotional and intellectual capacity of the "meeker" sex, four hundred years prior
to twentieth-century feminism.
Literature benefits all humanity when it is shown as a reflection of human truths and historical events. Feminism has a
long tradition and heritage, and women must be allowed the right to know of these--to know how they became the
equal and respected beings they are today. If literature is not relevant to human issues, it becomes insignificant and
outdated. By partaking in a project of this nature, then readers will be able to see that even literature that was written
centuries ago can still have a bearing upon, and pertain to modern audiences and readers.
During the summer of 1998, I completed research for my first chapter in my thesis, dealing with the character of
Lady Macbeth. I intend to use this material in the final draft of the completed thesis.
Abrams, Richard, "The double casting of Cordelia and Lear's Fool: a theatrical review," Texas Studies in Literature and
Language, 27 (February '92), pp. 354-68.
Bamber, Linda, Comic Women, Tragic Men: A Study of Gender and Genre in Shakespeare. Palo Alto: Stanford University
Brown, Carolyn E., "Juliet's Taming of Romeo," Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 36 (Spring '96), pp. 337-55.
Butler, F.G., "Erasmus and the deaths of Cordelia and Lear," English Studies, 73 (February '92), pp. 10-21.
Callaghan, Dympna, Women and Gender in Renaissance Tragedy. Humanities Press International, Inc.: United States of America, 1989.
Carlisle, Carole J., "Helen Faucit's Lady Macbeth," Shakespeare Studies, 16 (1983), pp. 205-33.
Cowden, Clarke, Mary, The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines. New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1873.
Curren, Deborah T., "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare Quarterly, 48 (Spring '97), pp. 98-102.
Davis, Lloyd, "'Death-marred Love': Desire and Presence in Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare Survey, 49 (1996), pp. 57-67.
Davis, Phillip, "Nineteenth Century Juliet," Shakespeare Survey, 49 (1996), pp. 131-140.
Faucit, Helena; Martin, Lady, Some of Shakespeare's Female Characters. London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1885.
Garber, Marjorie, Coming of Age in Shakespeare. Methuen: London, 1981.
Gay, Penny, As She Likes It: Shakespeare's Unruly Women. Routledge: London, 1994.
Kirsch, Arthur, The Passions of Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes. University Press of Virginia: Charlottesville, 1990.
Loftus, Margaret, Shakespeare and His Social Context. AMA Press, Inc.: New York, 1987.
Garner, Shirley Nelson, and Madelon Sprengnether, MaShakespearean Tragedy and Gender. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 1996.
Stone, James W., "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet," Renaissance Quarterly, 50 (Autumn '97), pp. 882-3.
Williams, Edith W., "In Defense of Lady Macbeth," Shakespeare Quarterly, 24, pp. 221-23.