Monash University

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Homesick : women's entrapment within the father's house. A comparative study of the fiction of Helen Garner, Beverley Farmer, Jessica Anderson and Elizabeth Harrower

posted on 2018-02-15, 03:40 authored by Marian Quigley
In the selected fiction of Helen Gamer, Beverley Farmer, Jessica Anderson and Elizabeth Harrower, the changing nature of women's relationship to the house and its use as metaphor reflects the changes in women's social, economic and cultural position which occurred in Australia during the 1950s-1990s. Women in these texts are shown to be 'housed' in varying degrees by the nation, religion, family, language, femininity and the body as well as by domesticity. These female characters are 'homesick': either for or of the house. The differing nature of this 'homesickness' is illustrated by the writers' varying representations of the house. The domestic house in Harrower's novels is depicted as a tomb: a reflection of women's fixed roles during the 1950s. In Gamer's post-'liberation' novel, The Children's Bach, the house resembles a womb: a sanctuary from male sexuality. The liberating effects of the women's movement can be seen in the increasing representations of Irigarayan 'living houses' which allow the expression of femininity. Farmer's houses and 'volatile' female bodies often cross male-defined boundaries to merge with the landscape. In Anderson's novel The Impersonators, houses are abandoned. Gamer's work both celebrates and re-defines the house as a site which, like language and female sexuality, is unfixed. Together, the work of Gamer, Farmer, Anderson and Harrower suggests that the re-housing and re-construction of women by and for themselves is in process and likely to continue.


Principal supervisor

Heather Scutter

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Department, School or Centre

Department of English


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts

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