Date of Award

1994

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Rosan A. Jordan

Abstract

My dissertation, Cauldron of Changes: Feminist Spirituality in Contemporary American Women's Fiction, combines feminist perspectives from literary and religious thinkers to inform a discussion of the overlooked aspects of contemporary European-American women's speculative fiction. The introductory chapter provides an overview of the feminist spirituality movement as it incorporates Goddess- and earth-centered religious perspectives, and covers the themes common to both spiritual practice and fiction. "Rewriting History and Legend," the second chapter, shows how the feminist spirituality movement has furthered the feminist project of rewriting myth, legend, and history, thus challenging the foundations of the cultural tradition of the West. In this chapter I analyze Kim Chernin's and Marion Zimmer Bradley's efforts to re-imagine and re-create narratives which have traditionally been androcentric. The next chapter, "Finding and Defining Personal Power," focuses on a key issue in feminist spirituality: redefining power in a non-exploitative fashion and claiming it for the female self. Authors discussed are Mercedes Lackey, Gael Baudino, and Patricia Kennealy. "Quest for the Goddess," chapter four, continues exploring the concept of feminist power as manifested in the female heroic quest, which in the novels under discussion takes the form of a quest to find or serve a Goddess. Works by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lynn Abbey, and Joan Vinge reveal the various concepts of the Goddess relevant to contemporary feminist explorations of the spiritual self. My study examines the logical progression from individual women seeking a spiritual ground of being in their lives, to healing themselves and the community. Throughout Cauldron of Changes I examine the ways in which speculative fiction offers unique possibilities for the feminist exploration of spiritual issues.

Pages

221

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