Postfeminist Feeling in Contemporary Women’s Short Stories, and, I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY: a collection of short stories

Appleton, Marni (2023) Postfeminist Feeling in Contemporary Women’s Short Stories, and, I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY: a collection of short stories. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This PhD in Creative and Critical writing investigates certain ‘sticking points’ or impasses that emerge in contemporary conversations about feminism, and considers the ways in which these sticking points are navigated in contemporary women’s short stories about girls and young women. I argue that the contemporary feminist landscape – marked by a renewed enthusiasm for feminism (sometimes thought of as a ‘fourth wave’) and complicated by the persistence of a postfeminist sensibility – contributes to the emergence of particular flat and frustrating feelings, which index situations of obstructed agency and affective deadlock.

In the critical thesis I analyse five short stories by women writers (all of which have been published since 2015) to theorise three particular feelings: heterosexual fatigue, stuckness and un/belonging. In the stories I analyse, the postfeminist insistence on upbeat feeling performances (such as resilience, positivity and empowerment) sits uncomfortably alongside the characters’ creeping awareness of the persistence and pervasiveness of gender inequality. In the fourth critical chapter, I address the question of form, asking what makes the short story especially suited to the channelling of these flat and frustrating feelings.

The second part of the project is a linked collection of short stories in which I explore, through my own creative practice, the potential of the short story to navigate the contradictions of contemporary femininity. The collection, I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY, follows teen and young women protagonists to homes, workplaces, theatres, parties and roadsides as they try to reconcile their girlhood with the expectations and responsibilities placed on them as adult (or nearly adult) women. The stories are all rooted in the real world but often tend towards the uncanny or surreal. Many of these stories centre sexual experiences, but they also grapple with mother-daughter relationships, friendships, precarious work, and social media.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2023 11:03
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 11:03

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