Witness to a century: the autobiographical writings of Naomi Mitchison

Lloyd, Helen (2005) Witness to a century: the autobiographical writings of Naomi Mitchison. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2252421

Abstract

This thesis is a study of the autobiographical writings of Naomi Mitchison, a prolific
writer of exceptional versatility who was born in the last years of the Victorian period
and is now best known as a writer of fiction, and as part of the 'Scottish literary
Renaissance' of the first half of the twentieth century. In her late seventies, towards
the end of a highly productive literary career, Mitchison published three volumes of
autobiography, Small Talk: Memoirs of an Edwardian Childhood (1973), All Change
Here: Girlhood and Marriage (1975) and You May Well Ask: A Memoir 1920-1940
(1979). Unusually for retrospective memoir, however, these texts cover less than half
of her hundred and one years, leading the reader to question the location and mode of
her complete autobiographical writings.
Working extensively with archival material, much of which has been
previously unavailable, this thesis sets out to demonstrate that Mitchison's personal
writings are far more extensive than have been previously acknowledged, and are to
be found through a wide range of out-of-print and unpublished material which include
diaries, travel writing, personal correspondence, and, in few instances, poetry and
prose fiction. In the course of this research I have compiled two substantial volumes
of source materials which have been lodged in the Department of Scottish Literature
Library. A contribution to Mitchison studies in themselves, I here draw attention to
their existence and availability.
While at first sight many of the texts on which this study focuses are minor
writings in relation to the major achievements of Mitchison's literary career, this
thesis argues that as a collected body of work, they form an autobiographical corpus
which documents and bears witness to an extraordinary twentieth-century life, and
constitutes a substantial literary achievement.
Autobiographical- and life-writings often escape strict generic boundaries, and
this study employs genre theory to interrogate the categorisation of literary genre.
Central to this focus on traditionally marginalised non-fictional writings are questions
of the changing position of memoir, the diary, epistolary and travel writings to the
canon, and recent theoretical approaches are examined.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Gifford, Prof. Douglas
Date of Award: 2005
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2005-4833
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2014 14:41
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2014 09:19
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/4833

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