Thursday, 29 October 2020

Calculated Care in Post-War British Women’s Writing

Dr Emily Ridge  ‌‌

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Meeting ID: 977 1468 9471
Passcode: 596077
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We look forward to seeing you there to celebrate the first talk in this new series.


The post-war works of Daphne DuMaurier, Muriel Spark, and Elizabeth Taylor are replete with representations of the strategic manipulation of domestic care and kindness. Midge, in DuMaurier’s ‘The Apple Tree’ (1952), looks after her husband so punctiliously that her attention takes the form of a ‘long-term reproach’ for an earlier indiscretion on his part. Mrs Pettigrew, in Spark’s Momento Mori (1959), uses her position as carer to exercise absolute domination over her charges to the point of blackmail. In Elizabeth Taylor’s The Soul of Kindness (1964), the benevolent intrusions of Flora into the lives of those around her are shown to disguise an inherent narcissism. In all cases, care is used, whether consciously or not, to manage and control interpersonal relationships. This paper will suggest that such domesticated representations also offer a response to a more widespread process of institutionalising and commodifying care, both as discourse and practice, in the years immediately following the Second World War. I will argue that these women writers variously and subtly document, in their post-war works, a transition period that sees the establishment of what Nikolas Rose has described as a ‘new rationale of government’, one directed towards the subjectivity and ‘soul’ of the citizen. Their works articulate a problematics of care in ways that complicate later feminist approaches, such as Carol Gilligan’s pioneering work on relationality in the 1980s, raising questions not only about the efficacy of care as a moral framework but equally its capacity as a strategic mechanism of governance.

Location: Zoom Meeting Meeting ID: 977 1468 9471 Passcode: 596077     
Time:13:00 - 14:00

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