Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

Abstract

Jean M. Auel's popular novels, The Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of the Horses, are examined via theories of political thought (history, economics, power), feminist theory (oppression, sex/gender roles), and popular literature's (genre) appeals to various 80s readership communities. Chapter Two draws from historical interests in women's myth to show that 70-80s religious and anthropo-archeological revisionism promote an 80s goddess theory in support of 70- 80s feminism; nonetheless, from a 90s vantage, Dani-goddess theorizing is problematized by universalism, teleology, and gender stereotyping. Chapter Three examines Clan's politics, religion, gender roles and the pitfalls of mythmaking to Clan's conservative, moderate, and liberal readership communities and to those who vary in their acceptance of feminism to suggest that the exaggerated patriarchal scenario promotes the less radical ideas of 70-80s feminism.

Following a similar organization, Chapter Four analyzes Valley's readership communities located according to their familiarity with goddess theorizing and by their preferences of genre fiction(s) to reveal that Valley's mythmaking reinscribes masculinist assumptions. Chapter Five examines Ayla's performances in several roles: as a heroine who confirms and reverses readers' expectations about the historical- romance-soap-opera and adventure; as a female hero who replicates some 70-80's archetypal impulses; and as a feminist hero who popularizes some 70-80 feminist issues for the general reader. The conclusion maintains that in spite of the deviations from genre expectations, the novels must be considered feminist since they address women's oppression and gender constrictions for a wide 80s audience who can (re)envision (pre)historical alternatives, hence their own lives.

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