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Dialogic and material influence on the formation of identity in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and Michael Cunningham's The Hours




O'Brien, Ann Diefendorf, author
Souder, Donna, advisor
Taylor, Cynthia, committee member
Ribadeneira, Alegria, committee member
Frank, Katherine, committee member

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The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway are texts that creatively and poignantly reveal how personal identity can be shaped. The construction of identity as portrayed in the characters of these novels goes beyond sexual orientation and constricted roles for women, two areas frequently highlighted in analyses of these books, to the essence of "being" and especially to how self or identity evolves in one's everyday place and time. The focal women in the books, though fictional creations, provide an opportunity to consider how identity evolves within particular ideological settings and how it is influenced by one's material, day-to-day circumstances and personal relationships. I examine identity formation as reflected in the protagonists with the ultimate goal of better understanding, as Bakhtin scholar Michael Holquist states well, "an activity in which we are all implicated. . . creating the ultimate act of authorship [that] results in the text which we call our self," (315). I draw upon the theories of Mikhail M. Bakhtin to apply his model of identity development and his thinking regarding how dialogics, language, ideology and a person's unique acts sculpt identity. My thesis emphasizes kairos, used here to indicate the particular time, place and socially charged environments in which each of the key female characters in Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours are portrayed. Not only do these texts mirror one another, they also keenly mirror human consciousness as it participates in forming personal identity. Applying a Bakhtinian critique to these novels illuminates the creation, sustainment and potential for change in individual identity, or in Bakhtin's words, "consciousness becoming." A Bakhtinian perspective also calls attention to the choices individuals make of their own accord and the responsibility created because of these choices. This is important in the academic setting today because increased awareness about how identity is formed, both by ideological influences and material reality, can contribute to individual empowerment and belief in the possibility of enacting change in self and in others.


2011 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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The Hours


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