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Constructing the Feminine: The Creation of Female Identity in New Zealand Fantasy Fiction

Very little has been written about the construction of female identity in contemporary New Zealand fantasy fiction. Focusing on a select group of authors and texts, this thesis seeks to explore some of the issues that heroines experience while seeking to create a complete, integrated identity in the face of social ostracism and oppression. The intention is to understand why identity is such a focal point of interest in fiction written by women for women. Alienation and forced assimilation are highlighted as being key obstructions to a heroine’s quest to understand her potential and place in the world. The ultimatum that her differences be physically and symbolically eradicated so that she can fit within the parameters of ideal femininity or else be crushed by the patriarchal hegemony drives the need for a third option: to escape to a magical sanctuary. Fantasy is special for its ability to offer training grounds for heroines, which are represented through magical spaces. However, each of the texts examined illustrate that these sanctuaries are just escapes and must be relinquished if a woman is to have any real place in the world. Hence, a metamorphosis of self must occur while she is within her training ground so that she can return to the real world with confidence. Finally, the fantasy quest is critically examined in terms of its structure and how each stage or ordeal relates to the construction and eventual realisation of female identity. At heart, this thesis is about female empowerment, agency, and transformation.
Type of thesis
Warner, K. J. (2015). Constructing the Feminine: The Creation of Female Identity in New Zealand Fantasy Fiction (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9601
University of Waikato
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