How do women say ‘I’ online?

Walsh, Joanna (2020) How do women say ‘I’ online? Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Creative Submission:
My digital narrative, Seed, seeks to re-work conventional notions of ‘character’ and ‘plot’ in fiction, via a the polyphonic first person narrative of an unnamed 1980s Ophelia who is searching for ways to represent unspoken and unspeakable experiences of girlhood in the late twentieth century. Coming of age in 1988, a year in which misinformation about AIDS, Chernobyl and CJD peaked, Seed’s narrator is haunted by fears of infection, aware that bodily experience (breathing, eating, sex) could lead to illness or even death. Living in isolation in the raw industrial countryside outside a new town, the poverty of narratives available to her render Seed’s narrator, like Shakespeare's heroine, multi-vocal with borrowed voices. In her case these are garnered from fashion magazines, pop songs, media reports, and the words Ophelia speaks in Hamlet—but, as Gertrude says of Ophelia, she is ”incapable of her own distress".
Presented as a digital app,, (with later iterations as a multi-vocal performance, and a print book), Seed grows into a rhizomatic structure which—aware of its experimental forbears including Julio Cortazar, B. S. Johnson and Shelley Jackson—can be read via a number of different paths. Time and space are collapsed and expanded into a nonhierarchical, explorable reading ‘landscape’, decentring ideas of 'author' and ‘character’ via a patchworked narrative inspired by post-Lacanian feminist and queer writing on subjectivity (especially Irigaray and Wittig). In keeping with its examination of restriction, the script of Seed is tied by a hidden linguistic constraint.

Critical Submission:
My critical thesis, <woman sitting in front of a screen>/<girl online>A USER MANIFESTO is a polyvocal investigation of the constraints and opportunities of constructing a female persona on the digital screen, for those constrained by aspects of female identity offline. Particularly concerned with the experiences of motherhood and gendered precarity in the arts and gig economy, I draw especially on the work of Berlant, Butler and Ngai to examine the poetics of commodifiable (female) gender-presentation in creative acts of self-identification online, taking in (amongst other iterations of online subjectivity) the digital speech act, the gif, the meme, the 'dead' site, and the blog-novel. My work draws direct comparisons between hierarchical structures in programming languages and vocabulary (chiefly Javascript) and digital Boolean logic, and offline constructions of the ‘female’. It asks questions about the nature of digital writing and reading for women via mimetic strategies of identification and exemplarity. Proceeding by example, it takes the form of moral vignettes, thought experiments, diary entries and coded scripts, both digital and social, taking into account the history of cyber-feminist thought and creativity to create a manifesto for those who use, and are used by, digital femininity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2021 10:58
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2021 10:58


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