Dissertations Print and Electronic

Print Version Electronic Version

Arrigo, Anna. "Some Autobiographical Elements Has [Sic] Found in Selected Novels of Barbara Pym." B.A. St. Francis College, 1998.

Provides a chronology of Pym’s life and a critique of four of her novels: Excellent Women, A Glass of Blessings, Quartet in Autumn, and The Sweet Dove Died.

Beard, Jennifer. "Barbara Pym's Narrative Intersections." Ph.D. University of New Hampshire, 1998.

Places Barbara Pym's realism in the context of modernism, anti-modernism, and post-modernism in connection with the twentieth- century English novel. Pym's diaries and letters were studied as examples of her earliest narrative attempts. Pym often considered romantic love, identity, and the fictive process in these personal texts. Beard considers these in terms of the cultural narratives explored by such postmodern theorists as Bakhtin and Brooks. The author provides a critique of the novel Excellent Women for the manner in which Pym used her knowledge of the work of Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf to create her own narrative paradigm.

Biber, Eleonore. "The Modern Anglo-Catholic Novel: Aspects of Anglo-Catholicism As Reflected in the Novels of Barbara Pym and A.N. Wilson." Ph.D. Universitat Wien, 2003.

Examines the portrayal of Anglo-Catholicism in the novels of Barbara Pym and Andrew Norman Wilson. The introduction provides a definition of Anglo-Catholicism as a section of the High Church movement within the Church of England. Pym's religious background and beliefs are interpreted in the light of her unpublished papers, diaries, literary notebooks and autobiographical reflections. The study investigates Pym's fiction in association with Anglo-Catholicism. Aspects of the High Church reflected in her novels include types of priests, ritual, ecumenical relations, attitudes to Rome, and religious orders.

Blair, Cairn Fiona. "A Study of the Presentation of Women in the Novels of Barbara Pym." M.A. University of South Africa, 1997.

The author evaluates Pym as a feminist writer and provides an analysis of the central protagonists in her twelve novels and in the context of British society from the 1950s to the 1970s. Draws on feminist critical paradigms in order to highlight insights into Pym's women characters. Also examines her use of comedy and subversion in relation to the main protagonists. Explores the 'Excellent Woman' figure in her fiction and the issues of spinsterhood, ageing, and Pym's idea of the "formidable woman". The author concludes that Pym is a humanist feminist of some importance, successful in illuminating her heroines' struggles against patriarchy in the context of a changing British society.

Buckley, Ariel. "Writing the Kitchen Front: Food Rationing and Propaganda in British Fiction Of the Second World War." M.A. McGill University, 2010.

Explores ways in which World War 11 food shortages, rationing, and propaganda affected mid-century British fiction. Arguing that food imagery offers a useful barometer of the domestic war climate, the thesis is divided into two main sections, the first focusing on the representation and regulation of food by the government, and the second analyzing the depiction of food in contemporary fiction. Taking novels by Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor as examples, the author discusses ways in which the “official food narratives” were acknowledged and transformed in contemporary fiction.
Thesis available online.

Cockrill, Richard T. "Prudishness, Promiscuity, and Peacock Worship in Pym." M.A. University of Mississippi, 1992.

Examines characters in three of Pym’s novels: Some Tame Gazelle, Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence in the light of the changing social and political events that took place in twentieth century Britain. These changes were also mirrored in the decline of the Church of England, from the great missionary period of the Victorian era to modern day disaffection with the established Church. Discusses major female characters in the three novels especially the “unlikely pairs” such as Jane and Prudence and Belinda and Harriet, these pairs representing different eras with respect to their attitudes and participation in the Church.

Collu, Gabrielle. "The Language of Food in the Fiction of Barbara Pym." M.A., McGill University, 1991.

Descriptions of food are very prominent in Barbara Pym's twelve novels sometimes for comic purposes. To describe the language of food in Pym's fiction, the author has used a combination of social history, structural anthropology, and semiology. Of particular relevance to the author is the semiology of Roland Barthes and his application of structural linguistics to food. The language of food functions on three interrelated levels in Pym's fiction: on a social level where groups are defined and hierarchised; second, on a gendered level where the sexes are defined and differentiated; and on a more personal level where an individual either communes or alienates him/herself from a given group. Identity is confirmed in relation to eating habits, food preparation, and consumption. Assisted by irony, Pym used the language of food to signal an interest in social and gender reform by presenting the artificiality of social constructs and gender stereotypes.
Thesis available online.

Conoci-Cannazza, Carmelina. "A Voice of One's Own: A Study in Barbara Pym's Novels." Lic.D. Phil. University of Zürich, 1991.

Donato, Deborah Ann. "Reading Barbara Pym." Ph.D. City University of New York, 1996.

The author argues that Pym’s unique abilities have been under-appreciated. She considers her to be a minor writer of major importance because of the sensuous yet simple quality of her prose. This simplicity, not predominantly of story, but of style, is one which reflects a genuine and natural response to the act of narration itself. Accordingly, it is at the level of the novels' language, sentence, and sentence structure, and the fluid narrative movements these constructions create, that Pym's particular excellence as a writer resides. This study closely examines Pym's text, choosing four novels representative of the quality of her work and the experience of reading Barbara Pym. These novels are Some Tame Gazelle, Pym's first published novel, Quartet in Autumn, Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence. Though Excellent Women is generally considered her most popular novel, the author believes that it falls short of Pym’s usual natural narrative quality.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Edwards, Margaret A. "Barbara Pym: The Pleasures and Virtues of Uncertainty." Ph.D. University of Sussex, 1998.

Examines Barbara Pym's novels An Unsuitable Attachment, Quartet in Autumn, A Few Green Leaves, No Fond Return of Love, A Glass of Blessings, Excellent Women and Less than Angels. She considers the predominating themes in these novels, including male/female relationships particularly those among women who are single, marginalized, and seeking love, as well as certain types of Pymian marriages. The author discusses these issues in the light of modern feminism. Other themes that are examined are Pym's use of clothing and personal style to delineate personality, class and age. Eating and food are also considered. The author finds "camp" in Pym's novels particularly in relation to her tonal quality which has features similar to that of the author Ivy Compton-Burnett. This tonal quality emphasizes a certain theatricality of language that heightens mood and characterization. Susan Sontag has written that Ivy Compton-Burnett's novels are part of the "canon of camp". Pym also used similar techniques in some of her novels such as the verbal exchanges between Michael and Gabriel, the gay undergraduates, in Crampton Hodnet.

Gode, Elene. "The Fortunes of Production and the Forces of Fiction: The Case of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 1998.

A social, literary, and cultural history of 20th century Britain, discusses Barbara Pym as a meeting point of cultural interaction, from production to consumption. The author explores the mechanics of literary production in the case of Barbara Pym and within the prevailing British cultural environment of her time.

Hajjar, Tania Grace. "Isolation and Community: Barbara Pym's Portrayal of Aging in Quartet in Autumn." M.A. University of Kentucky, 1991.

Examines Pym’s depiction of aging in the novels Some Tame Gazelle, her first novel, and Quartet in Autumn, her second to last. In the forty years between these works Pym radically altered her view of the aging process and the state of the elderly in society. The author believes that Pym’s unhappy personal experiences such as the decline in her health, subsequent early retirement from the International African Institute, and literary rejection after the early 1960s, contributed to her darker and more complex view of growing old which was transferred to her last novels. In Quartet in Autumn the characters are fundamentally isolated and alone, unable to connect to their social environment or to each other. Pym is also sharply critical of the failure of the welfare state to meaningfully assist the elderly. By contrast, in Some Tame Gazelle the characters of Belinda and Harriet Bede remain rooted in youthful happiness even into their sixties, as part of a warm and comfortable village community.

Holberg, Jennifer L. "Searching for Mary Garth: The Figure of the Writing Woman in Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, E.M. Delafield, Barbara Pym, and Anita Brookner." Ph.D. University of Washington, 1997.

The author challenges dominant paradigms of female authorship that have tended to construct the woman writer in a negative manner. In this context, the author traces how three female writers in the twentieth century employ, defend, and transmute their heritage of conventionality. For E.M. Delafield, Barbara Pym and Anita Brookner, marriage becomes a less certain institution. Religion provides a middle road by which they negotiate a path between conventionality and modernity. For all of them writing is an important means of deliverance, the way in which they are able to bring together all the disparate parts of their lives in order to discover a way to a full life. For Barbara Pym writing represented the single most important activity throughout her life.
Free full text of thesis accessible at ResearchGate with sign-up: http://www.researchgate.net/ Thesis also available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Holland, Barbara Windham. "A Curious Kind of Consolation: Barbara Pym's Ironic Reduction." Ph.D. University of Alabama, 1993.

Provides a discussion of six of Pym’s novels. The study identifies the deeply personal nature of Pym’s canon and the problems critics have in separating Pym’s life and personality from her fiction. The author believes that Pym’s identity weaves itself throughout her work. She contends that Pym wrote about herself and, in this process, wanted to throw off the spinster stereotype as a means of asserting the self. Creativity was a means through which Pym could reconcile her unmarried state and resolve her ambivalence concerning her sexuality. Throughout her work she sought to mediate her personal conflicts and her inability to conduct satisfactory relationships with men. The study seeks to explore Pym’s methods of manipulating her three spheres of identity and how she found “consolation” in literature and writing.

Isani, Arif Ali. "Pym and the Popular: Form and Structure of the Novel." M.A. College of William and Mary, 1995.

Johnson, R. Neill. "Mainstream and Margins in the Postwar British Comic Novel." Ph.D. Pennsylvania State University, 1998.

The postWar British comic novel has become a vehicle for exploring various competing marginal identities. The author outlines how social changes have affected the comic novel and examines the applicability of general humour theories to a largely realistic genre. Women's humour, particularly that of Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor, is considered subversive; it can also employ the grotesque and the vengeful. The author postulates that the steady decline of feminism in Britain after women gained the vote in 1928 gave rise to the notion of domesticity as a great virtue. This emphasis on domestic life forms a backdrop in Pym's fiction. The author contends that the prevailing anti-feminist atmosphere caused Pym to use a subtle and sometimes malicious wit in order to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of women over men. This subversion is noteworthy considering the limited social and personal choices available to women at the time in which Pym wrote.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Jones, Michelle Lynne. "Laughing Hags: The Comic Vision as Feminist." Ph.D. University of Alberta, 1992.

Feminist comedy, particularly in the post-World War II period, rejected class and gender distinctions. This thesis examines the novels of Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark as texts that mock societal norms through comic inversion. The thesis itself employs strategies of derision and inversion, reflecting the comic feminist principle of "woman on top." By examining the authors' mockery of three major ideological structures--the academy, the church, and the self--and by using a style reflective of such mockery, the author attempts to demonstrate these writers' comic concerns.

Joyce, Robin R. "The Troublesome Woman: a Study of Barbara Pym's Novels and Short Stories." Ph.D. Australian National University, 2012.

Provides a revisionist account of Barbara Pym's fiction, contending that the author's fiction has a significant feminist dimension that challenges contemporary conventions about female roles. Presents the view that Pym, as a consummate observer, consciously or unconsciously interpreted her observations from a feminist perspective. However, unlike post-1970s writers, Pym was ill equipped to place her observations in a feminist framework, since she lacked a body of theory through which to interpret feminist understandings. It is also argued that Pym continues some of Jane Austen's practices in her use of irony and mockery, confounding expectations of male and female behaviour, and using a conforming woman to contrast with a troublesome woman. Pym's techniques offer the reader a cozy cover for representations of women and men that disturb conventional views of marriage and women's social role. The thesis refers to the idea of the ""troublesome woman"in Pym's fiction and suggests that the Pym destablizes the conventional argument that women have inherently different characteristics from men and that nurturing is central to women's lives.

Knochel, Mary Jeanne. "Observing the Boundaries: Theme and Technique in the Novels of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. Purdue University, 1994.

This study of Pym’s novels argues that her best work is her least characteristic. The author investigates the use of the term "Pymish" which typically describes Pym’s distinctive narrative voice while analyzing her specialized use of language, introduces Pym’s usual themes, and reveals the voyeuristic content of her writing. Pym’s novels borrow from and are bounded by the traditions of English literature, the rituals of the Anglican Church, and the conventions of upper-middle class society. Writing about curious spinsters who cautiously observe the lives of others, Pym adopted visual techniques of both anthropology and the cinema. After publishers rejected her seventh novel, Barbara Pym spent years perfecting two experimental novels which the author believes are superior to her earlier work. Close readings of The Sweet Dove Died (1978) and Quartet in Autumn (1977) assess this artistic achievement. An examination of Pym's last novel, A Few Green Leaves (1980), serves as summary.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Lee, Sun-Hee. "Love, Marriage, and Irony in Barbara Pym's Novels." Ph.D. University of North Texas, 1991.

The focus of this study is on the two basic ironies in love-marriage relations: irony of dilemma in which marriage is seen as the end of romantic love, and irony of situation in which excellent but plain-looking women are deprived of the chance to express their need for love. These themes are examined in six of Pym's twelve novels: Some Tame Gazelle, Excellent Women, Jane and Prudence, Less Than Angels, A Glass of Blessings, and A Few Green Leaves. While discussing the uniqueness of each of Pym's heroines, the author explores the manner in which Pym underwent changes in her views toward love and marriage and how she tried to keep a balance between her romanticism and her sense of irony.

LoSchiavo, Tammy. "Some Autobiographical Elements As Found in Barbara Pym's Novels." St. Francis College, 1998.

McDonald, Margaret Anne. "Alone Together: Gender and Alienation in the Novels of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. The University of Saskatchewan, 1991.

The author presents the viewpoint that in Barbara Pym’s fiction gender plays a significant role and suggests that underlying her narrative is a subversive element through which she questioned traditional patriarchy in society. Though her fiction may not be considered overtly feminist, Pym nevertheless raised issues about gender stereotyping. The author also considers Pym an inheritor of the narrative tradition of Jane Austen, notably in her use of the “marriage plot”. Implicit within this fictional device is the promise of marriage for the female protagonist by the end of the novel, the heroine's hard-won reward for good behaviour. Though Pym's heroines may have hope for this same resolution, few actually achieve it. The author argues that, in consequence, Pym’s novels rest on a seeming paradox. The "excellent woman" does not achieve marriage. Pym also evokes a society increasingly estranged from itself and its past. In this alienated society, "excellent women" become the custodians of custom and ceremony. These women serve as a mediating influence between the past and the future.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Millman, China. "Unmasking Barbara Pym: The Reclamation of Pymian Realism." A.B. Harvard University, 2005.

Mullen, Lynne Kennedy. "Self-Affirmation and Women in the Novels of Barbara Pym." M.A. San Francisco State University, 1991.

Najarian, James Hiester. "The "Unmanly" Poet: Keats and the Poetics of Desire." Ph.D. Yale University, 1996.

The author considers the ways that Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Gaskell, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Walter Pater, and Wilfred Owen reacted to the work of John Keats. Presents the view that Keats' perceived gender stance affected these writers' poetic relationships. The dissertation explores the ambivalent identifications and affiliations that some writers made with Keats such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Wilfrid Owen. The thesis concludes by exploring twentieth-century ambivalence about Keats in the work of Virginia Woolf, Barbara Pym, and Tennessee Williams. Suggests the manner in which twentieth-century writers maneuvered around or made use of the association of Keats with sexual transgression in their work.Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Pardua, Christopher Robert. "Excellent Women, Muffled Voices, and Changing Times: Shifting Between the Romantic and Victorian in Barbara Pym's Fiction." M.A. Mississippi College, 1995.

Paryas, Phyllis Margaret. "Making a Life From the Margins: the Oblique Art of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. University of Ottawa, 1992.

Examines dissonance in the comic novels of Barbara Pym from a pluralist critical perspective. Pym's restrained and indirect style is considered as a manifestation of the marginal positioning of a middle-class woman writer within the cultural milieu of pre- and post-War Britain. Structuralist, post-formalist and feminist criticism is used in an attempt to shed light on the contradictory forces which the author believes is discernible in Pym's prose.
Thesis available online.

Pitty, Valerie M. "Sailing All Alone: A Study of Spinsters in the Novels of Barbara Pym and Emily Hilda Young." M.A. University of New South Wales, 1995.

Rankin, Arthur Louis. "The Problem of Closure in the Novels of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. Texas Tech University, 2001.

The first in-depth study of the problem of closure in the novels of Barbara Pym. It also investigates the use of cross-over characters as a device for expanding the narrative boundaries of her novels. In addition, the author explores the influence that comic ploys and intertextuality have on the narrative. Barbara Pym experimented with various narrative forms in order to create her comic novels. However, she often reinforced the comic nature of one novel by including its characters in other novels. Her use of cross-over characters expands the narrative boundaries of one text by having it spill over into the world of another novel.
Thesis available online.

Rathburn, Frances Margaret. "The Ties that Bind: Breaking the Bonds of Victimization in the Novels of Barbara Pym, Fay Weldon and Margaret Atwood." Ph.D. North Texas State University, 1994.

Provides a study of several novels by Barbara Pym, Fay Weldon, and Margaret Atwood. The focus is on two areas: first, the ways in which female protagonists break out of their victimization as individuals, through institutions and cultural traditions. Second, the author considers the ways in which each writer uses a structural pattern to propel the characters into solving personal dilemmas according to each woman's personality and strengths. The section on Pym includes a detailed analysis of the novels Excellent Women and A Glass of Blessings, with brief discussions of Some Tame Gazelle, Jane and Prudence, and Less Than Angels. Pym, Weldon, and Atwood are three modern authors who have consistently written about the victimization of women and the ways in which their female protagonists come to terms with it. Their writing styles and characterizations are radically different, yet they share a common theme which is women's search for fulfillment and identity in a male-dominated world.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Raz, Orna. "Reconstructing the Fourth Wall: The Social Dimension in the Novels of Barbara Pym, 1949--1963." Ph.D Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2005.

Rees, Heidi Ann. "A Consolidation of Spinsters' Fiction, Food and Self-Awareness in the Early Novels of Barbara Pym." M.A. University of Manitoba, 1994.

Explores the manner in which unmarried women in Barbara Pym's novels find a way of forming identities while moving outside rigid social conventions in order to discover self-awareness. This expanding self-awareness allows Pym's spinsters to cope within a restrictive and conventional social environment. Focuses on the novels Some Tame Gazelle, Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence. The author argues that one way Pym's unmarried women characters find pleasure is through the consumption of food. Eating becomes a method of expressing the sensuality and pleasure which is denied to them in a society that expects unmarried women to be chaste.

Rich, Lauren Grace. "Food for Thought: Eating, Reading and Being Modern in British and Irish Literature, 1900's to 1950's." Ph.D. University of Notre Dame, 2012.

Food imagery and eating serve important and largely unexamined functions in early twentieth-century British and Irish fiction. The author explores several "feminine middlebrow" writers including Barbara Pym. Pym's fiction assumes an optimistic response to modernity’s erosion of food-based ritual by creating consumption communities founded on shared tastes—both literary and gustatory.

Rodriguez, Stacey M. "Some Autobiographical Elements Found in Barbara Pym's Novels." B.A. St. Francis College, 1998.

Rodriguez, Stacey M. "Some Autobiographical Elements Found in Barbara Pym's Novels." B.A. St. Francis College, 1998.

Sanford, Rhonda Lemke. ""Dress Optional"?: The Discourse of Clothes in the Novels of Barbara Pym." M.A. University of Colorado at Denver, 1993.

In the novels of Barbara Pym, the language of clothing is used to provide a system of communication among the characters. For example, Pym uses clothing to communicate sexuality in her female characters which often subverts the representation put forward by the characters themselves. Clothes are also used to define the heroine's relationship to others, to underscore a subtle sexual tension that pervades an otherwise prim or modest presentation of self. Clothes may function to affirm self-esteem and mental health. The author contends that it becomes clear that Pym's rather detailed descriptions of clothing serve a more consequential purpose than might be apparent on the surface. In fact, Pym used this device to define the person. A prime example is the clothing of Leonora Eyre in The Sweet Dove Died. For Leonora dress and image become more important than relationships. Similarly in Excellent Women, Mildred Lathbury comes to realize that by changing her colourless image with different clothing she can become a sexual being. In Quartet in Autumn Marcia Ivory's increasingly strange choice of clothing signals the disintegration of selfhood.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Shields, Christopher Macdonell. "'A Man Needs Meat': Food and Gender in the Fiction of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. University of Edinburgh, 2004.

Examines Barbara Pym’s treatment of food as it intersects with gender. By mapping the subjective quality that her fiction achieves through the ironic exposition of cultural myths relating to food and its gender implication, the thesis offers a different critical understanding of Pym’s canon. Through a feminist perspective the author offers an overview of foodway rules as they connect with gender conventions and their supporting mythologies. Provides an analysis of middle-class English “tribal customs” based on Pym’s familiarity with anthropological theory and techniques.

Silva, Marilyn Matthes. "Barbara Pym's View of the Church, 1952-78." A.L.M. Harvard University, 1993.

Staunton, S. Jane. ""Dying, in Other Words": Discourses of Dis-Ease and Cure in the Last Works of Jane Austen and Barbara Pym." M.A. McGill University, 1997.

The last works of Jane Austen and Barbara Pym were written while each writer was near death. Both novelists continued to transform a discourse of illness and cure traceable through their canon. Illness figures both literally and metaphorically in their narratives; in Austen as failures in wholeness and in Pym as failures in love. After undergoing the metaphorical medical treatments of purging and vivifying in Austen and inoculating in Pym, their female protagonists achieve conditions of health and wholeness by the end of the narrative. Individual illnesses become a general societal condition of fragmentation, while cure becomes elusive.
Thesis available online.
Also available at: Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Tsagaris, Ellen M. "In Small Things Forgotten: The Subversion of the Discourse of Romance in the Novels of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1996.

Explores the way in which Barbara Pym subverts the discourse of the romance novel through her use of food, clothing, characterizations, and marriage customs. The study also compares Pym's novels with those of other authors whom she admired and emulated. Pym often parodied her own unhappy love affairs described in her diaries and later in her fiction. Through hyperbole and exaggeration, Pym also parodied the plots of romances. She borrowed character types from romance writing, but deflated the myths of that genre by adding quirks to her characters' personalities. Pym's women characters are interested in romance but they recognize that living a full life may be problematic. Pym makes her heroines manipulate the romance discourse to suit their own individual lives.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Tyler, Natalie Christine Hawthorne. "Communities of Last Resort: Representations of the Elderly in the Contemporary British Novel." Ph.D. Ohio State University, 1993.

Elderly characters traditionally occupy minor roles in the novel. As a genre, the novel has most often concentrated on the romance plot rather than on the state of old age or on elderly people. However, in the last half of the twentieth century several British novels have specially designated elderly characters. These novels most often feature a community of elderly characters, perhaps because the "desire-driven" novel plot can easily accommodate more than one elderly protagonist, since desire is often depicted as weakened in old age. In many cases, characters are represented living in institutions such as nursing homes or hospital wards. The author argues that contemporary novelists like Muriel Spark, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Bailey, Barbara Pym, Kingsley Amis, and Christopher Hope represent their elderly characters as struggling against the grain of popular stereotypes in order to live with freedom and dignity.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Vroman, Anita Sue. "Finding Richness in Barbara Pym's Leonora Eyre." M.A. California State University at Sacramento, 2010.
Examines the character of Leonora Eyre in The Sweet Dove Died. Although literary critics admire the novel, they often find its heroine problematic. Like most of Pym's female protagonists Leonora indulges in romantic fantasy. She is focused on self-validation through self-involvement which differentiates her as being among the “elegant” rather than "excellent" of Pym’s women characters. Excellent women validate their lives by helping and giving deference to others through self-denial and self-effacement. Concludes that many critics have judged Leonora too harshly, labeling her as narcissistic and vain, a character without sympathy. The author believes that Leonora grows and changes in her personhood by the end of the novel.

Wagner, Marcina M. "Not Quite so Excellent Women: The Subversive Element in the Early Novels of Barbara Pym." M.A. Kutztown University, 1994.

Barbara Pym's literary concern was the situation of women in their early thirties or older, unmarried, unemployed or marginally employed, plain-looking, whose central preoccupation is the Anglican Church. These so-called "excellent women" neither pity themselves nor invite pity despite their relatively marginal existences. Pym manages to convey this through the use of comedic thoughts, actions, and speech of these heroines. The comedy is nothing short of subversive located as it is in highly conventional postWar England. Marriage is the basis of personal and social success, with spinsters at the bottom of the social pyramid. Male characters are not blind to the virtues of these so-called "excellent women". However, courtships do not progress smoothly, and the heroines' use of comedy allows them, if only temporarily, to have both power and freedom over egotistical males. Jessie Morrow in Crampton Hodnet, Mildred Lathbury in Excellent Women, and Dulcie Mainwaring in No fond Return of Love have lives that Pym captures with remarkable restraint and uncompromising honesty.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Wilcox, Jacqueline F. "Marriage in the Early Works of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1992.

The author seeks to discover why the protagonists in Pym's early novels do not generally have successful or happy marriages. In Pym's first seven novels the cultural myths of the time can be seen to damage the potential happiness of both sexes. Where women were brought up to feel guilt if they were not "splendid," or "excellent," they became Marthas. The women who succeeded best at following the pattern established by the cult of romance had difficulty adapting to the requirements after marriage. Men could not hope to live up to the impossible standards set for them by the culture, and looked foolish when they failed. The author concludes that the myths inherent in patriarchy ultimately work to the detriment of both sexes.

Yount, Loretta. "Barbara Pym's Heroines: A Character Study." M.A. California State University at Northridge, 1994.


Dissertations and Academic Projects (Electronic)

Adolph, Andrea. “Body and Soul: Food: the Female (in) Corporeal and the Narrative Effects of Mind/Body Duality”. Ph.D. Louisiana State University, 2002.
Online

Combines philosophical, historical, and cultural enquiry in order to explore literary mechanisms that selected authors have used to “write the body”. Using archival and primary sources, this dissertation is grounded in the experiential, everyday qualities of women’s lives. Samples of women’s cultural materials such as beauty, cookery, and household management texts, as well as popular women’s magazines, serve as information for an investigation of middle and working-class British and Anglo-Irish women’s culture during the twentieth century. The study also investigates some of the ways in which women have thought about food. Discusses food in relation to culture, war and society in the work of such writers as Virginia Woolf, Edna O'Brien, and Barbara Pym, in the case of the latter author with reference to the novel Jane and Prudence.

Bauer, Sheila. "Eating Away: a Study of Women's Relationship With Food in Literature”. Honors Projects in English, Illinois Wesleyan University, 1993.
Online

The author discusses women's relationship with food and eating in connection to the novels of three authors; Fay Weldon's The Fat Woman's Joke, Barbara Pym's Quartet in Autumn, and Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman. In Quartet in Autumn Marcia Ivory dies from an eating disorder in reaction to the loss of control over the events in her life, a need for attention, and confusion about personal boundaries. The author contends that all three of these issues are interrelated in Marcia's sense of identity and autonomy. By starving herself Marcia takes control of her body again, previously lost through illness. She grasps at the one area over which she can take power, while losing control in every other aspect of her life.

Buckley, Ariel. “Writing the Kitchen Front: Food Rationing and Propaganda in British Fiction of the Second World War.” M.A., McGill University, 2010.
Online

Explores ways in which Second World War food shortages, rationing, and propaganda affected mid-century British fiction. Arguing that food imagery offers a useful barometer of the domestic war climate, the thesis is divided into two main sections: the first focusing on the representation and regulation of food by the government, and the second analyzing the depiction of food in contemporary fiction as a response both to the government's martialization of food resources and to the shortages themselves. Using novels by Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor as examples, this study discusses ways in which the official government food narratives defined in the first chapter were acknowledged and transformed in contemporary fiction.

Collu, Gabrielle. “The Language of Food in the Fiction of Barbara Pym.” M.A. McGill University, 1991.
Online

Descriptions of food are very prominent in Barbara Pym's twelve novels sometimes for comic purposes. To describe the language of food in Pym's fiction, the author has used a combination of social history, structural anthropology, and semiology. Of particular relevance to the author is the semiology of Roland Barthes and his application of structural linguistics to food. The language of food functions on three interrelated levels in Pym's fiction: on a social level where groups are defined and hierarchised; second, on a gendered level where the sexes are defined and differentiated; and on a more personal level where an individual either communes or alienates him/herself from a particular group. Identity is confirmed in relation to eating habits, food preparation and consumption. Assisted by the use of irony, Pym incorporates the language of food to signal an interest in social and gender reform and by presenting the artificiality of social constructs and gender stereotypes.

Holberg, Jennifer L. "Searching for Mary Garth: the Figure of the Writing Woman in Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, E.M. Delafield, Barbara Pym, and Anita Brookner." Ph.D. University of Washington, 1997.
Free full text accessible at ResearchGate with sign-up: http://www.researchgate.net/
Thesis may also be found online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

The author challenges dominant paradigms of female authorship that have tended to construct the woman writer in a negative manner. In this context, the author traces how three female writers in the twentieth-century employ, defend, and transmute their heritage of conventionality. For E.M. Delafield, Barbara Pym and Anita Brookner, marriage becomes a less certain institution. Religion provides a middle road by which they negotiate a path between conventionality and modernity. For all of them writing is an important means of deliverance, the way in which they are able to bring together all the disparate parts of their lives in order to discover a road to a full life.

Jones, Michelle Lynne. "Laughing Hags: The Comic Vision as Feminist." Ph.D. University of Alberta, 1992.
Online

Feminist comedy, particularly in the post-World War II period, rejected class and gender distinctions. This thesis examines the novels of Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark as texts that mock societal norms through comic inversion. The thesis itself employs strategies of derision and inversion, reflecting the comic feminist principle of "woman on top." By examining the authors' mockery of three major ideological structures--the academy, the church, and the self--and by using a style reflective of such mockery, the author attempts to demonstrate these writers' comic concerns.

McDonald, Margaret Anne. "Alone Together: Gender and Alienation in the Novels of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. The University of Saskatchewan, 1991. McDonald, Margaret Anne. "Alone Together: Gender and Alienation in the Novels of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. The University of Saskatchewan, 1991.
Online

The author presents the viewpoint that in Barbara Pym’s fiction gender plays a significant role and suggests that underlying her narrative is a subversive element through which she questioned traditional patriarchy in society. Though her fiction may not be considered overtly feminist, Pym nevertheless raised issues about gender stereotyping. The author also considers Pym an inheritor of the narrative tradition of Jane Austen, notably in her use of the “marriage plot”. Implicit within this fictional device is the promise of marriage for the female protagonist by the end of the novel, the heroine's hard-won reward for good behaviour. Though Pym's heroines may have hope for this same resolution, few actually achieve it. The author argues that, in consequence, Pym’s novels rest on a seeming paradox. The "excellent woman" does not achieve marriage. Pym also evokes a society increasingly estranged from itself and its past. In this alienated society, "excellent women" become the custodians of custom and ceremony. These women serve as a mediating influence between the past and the future.
Thesis available online at Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

Paryas, Phyllis Margaret. "Making a Life From the Margins: the Oblique Art of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. University of Ottawa, 1992.
http://www.ruor.uottawa.ca/en/handle/10393/7573

Examines dissonance in the comic novels of Barbara Pym from a pluralist critical perspective. Pym's restrained and indirect style is considered as a manifestation of the marginal positioning of a middle-class woman writer within the cultural milieu of pre- and postWar Britain. Structuralist, post-formalist, and feminist criticism is used in an attempt to shed light on the contradictory forces which the author believes is discernible in Pym's prose.

Rankin, Arthur Louis. "The Problem of Closure in the Novels of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. Texas Tech University, 1991.
Online

The first in-depth study of the problem of closure in the novels of Barbara Pym. It also investigates Pym's use of cross-over characters as a device for expanding the narrative boundaries of her novels. The author also considers the influence that comic ploys and intertextuality have in Pym's novels. Pym experimented with various narrative forms in order to create her comic novels. For example, she often reinforced the comic nature of one novel by including characters in other novels. Her use of cross-over characters expands the narrative boundaries of one text by having it spill over into the world of another novel.

Rees, Heidi Ann. "A Consolidation of Spinsters' Fiction, Food and Self-Awareness in the Early Novels of Barbara Pym." M.A. University of Manitoba, 1994.
http://mspace.lib.umanitoba.ca//handle/1993/18462

Explores the manner in which unmarried women in Barbara Pym's novels find a way of forming identities while moving outside rigid social conventions in order to discover self-awareness. This expanding self-awareness allows Pym's spinsters to cope within a restrictive and conventional social environment. Focuses on the novels Some Tame Gazelle, Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence. The author argues that one way Pym's unmarried women characters find pleasure is through the consumption of food. Eating becomes a method of expressing the sensuality and pleasure which is denied to them in a society that expects unmarried women to be chaste.

Stanley, Isabel Ashe Bonnyman. "The Anglican Clergy in the Novels of Barbara Pym." Ph.D. University of Tennessee, 1990.
Online

The author accessed Pym’s diaries, notebooks and other personal papers held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, and interviewed Hilary Pym Walton. In most of Pym’s earlier novels the clergy are depicted as ineffectual and comic but central to community life. In later novels she shows the decline of religious life and the rise of the welfare state in Britain which does not completely fill the void left by the Church. She questions what creates a sense of purpose in the modern world and the functioning of the individual within it. Pym finds that the Anglican Church has lost much of it’s vigour but still aides, to a modest degree, community cohesion as a state church.

Staunton, S. Jane. "Dying, in Other Words": Discourses of Dis-Ease and Cure in the Last Works of Jane Austen and Barbara Pym." M.A. McGill University, 1997.
Online

The last works of Jane Austen and Barbara Pym were written while each was near death. Both novelists continued to transform a discourse of illness and cure traceable through their canon. Illness figures both literally and metaphorically in their narratives; in Austen as failures in wholeness and in Pym as failures in love. After undergoing the metaphorical medical treatments of purging and vivifying in Austen and inoculating in Pym, their female protagonists achieve conditions of health and wholeness by the end of the narrative. Individual illnesses become a general societal condition of fragmentation, and cure becomes elusive.

Vroman, Anita Sue. "Finding Richness in Barbara Pym's Leonora Eyre." M.A. California State University at Sacremento, 2010.
Online

Examines the character of Leonora Eyre in The Sweet Dove Died. Although literary critics admire the novel, they often find its heroine problematic. Like most of Pym's female protagonists Leonora indulges in romantic fantasy. She is focused on self-validation through self-involvement which differentiates her as being among the “elegant” rather than "excellent" Pymian women. Excellent women validate their lives by helping and offering deference to others, and through self-denial and self-effacement. Concludes that many critics have judged Leonora too harshly, labeling her as narcissistic and vain. The author believes that Leonora grows and changes in her personhood by the end of the novel.