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Anna Burns's No Bones and Milkman: Bildungsroman and Trauma
Thesis title in Czech: Romány Anny Burns No Bones a Mlíkař: Bildungsroman a trauma
Thesis title in English: Anna Burns's No Bones and Milkman: Bildungsroman and Trauma
Key words: Anna Burns|bildungsroman|trauma|Severní Irsko
English key words: Anna Burns|bildungsroman|trauma|Northern Ireland
Academic year of topic announcement: 2021/2022
Thesis type: Bachelor's thesis
Thesis language: angličtina
Department: Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures (21-UALK)
Supervisor: prof. Mgr. Ondřej Pilný, Ph.D.
Author: hidden - assigned and confirmed by the Study Dept.
Date of registration: 24.02.2022
Date of assignment: 24.02.2022
Administrator's approval: not processed yet
Confirmed by Study dept. on: 01.03.2022
Date and time of defence: 05.09.2022 00:00
Date of electronic submission:08.08.2022
Date of proceeded defence: 05.09.2022
Submitted/finalized: committed by student and finalized
Opponents: doc. Clare Wallace, M.A., Ph.D.
Despite the term bildungsroman being associated mainly with novels of the 18th or 19th century, this genre, or at least its features, still persists in contemporary literature. The defining feature of bildungsroman is the main character, who undergoes development and eventually reaches maturity while often struggling in a conflict with the majority of society. This thesis argues that Anna Burns’s novels No Bones and Milkman might be considered representatives of this type of novel. No Bones is a more typical example of the bildungsroman as it follows the main character, Amelia Lovett, through 25 years of her life, from childhood to her mid-thirties. Even though Milkman does not portray years of growth of the middle sister, her experience with the milkman results in attaining a certain maturity, which is a crucial aspect of the bildungsroman. The thesis will explore the aspects of bildungsroman in these two novels and how they are employed in portraying the ongoing conflict in both books.
The common theme of these two novels is a main female character who is unable to blend in with the society she lives in, yet at the same time, she is often oblivious to her exclusion. Both characters grow up during a long-term conflict. Whilst the setting of No Bones is evident from the beginning – Belfast, mainly Ardoyne, from the late 60s to early 90s, time and space in Milkman are more oblique. In many ways, the setting resembles Belfast of the late 70s; however, no place, name, or specific political term is ever mentioned. In fact, the middle sister coins her own expressions parallel to the troubles, though dissociating from them at the same time. Nonetheless, the background strongly resembles that of No Bones.
The thesis will examine the main characters’ trauma stemming from their adolescence and how it is portrayed within the genre of bildungsroman. It will also look at the characters’ development and how it is influenced by the continuing political unrest. Apart from the civil conflict, both heroines face domestic conflict, since they come from dysfunctional families that lack a father figure. Moreover, the thesis aims to discuss Amelia and the middle sister’s coping mechanisms as they both isolate themselves from society. The distortion of the narrative in both novels, be it changing viewpoints in No Bones, or unreliable memories in Milkman, emphasizes the presence of trauma. Amelia conceals her feelings, and her unsatisfied needs reflect in her anorexia, while the middle sister ignores her surroundings and finds refuge in 19th-century books. This motive of fleeing is another feature of Burns’s brand of the bildungsroman, and both females attempt to escape differently. Whereas the middle sister’s haven is metaphorical, in old books, Amelia leaves for London. However, it turns out they are unable to avoid the trauma since both the conflict and the people engaged in it seem to be following them.
Preliminary bibliography:
Downes, Daragh. “Anna Burns’ MilkmanStudies 110, no. 438 (2021): 231-240.
Falci, Eric, and Paige Reynolds. Irish literature in transition. 1980-2020. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
Fludernik, Monika, and Patricia Häusler-Greenfield. An Introduction to Narratology. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2009.
Frawley, Oona. Memory Ireland: Volume 3: The Famine and the Troubles. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2014.
Genette, Gérard. Narrative Discourse: An Essay In Method. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. New York: Cornell University Press, 1980.
Heidemann, Birte. Post-Agreement Northern Irish Literature: Lost in a Liminal Space?. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Hutton, Clare. “The Moment and Technique of Milkman” Essays In Criticism 69, no. 1 (2019): 349-371.
Malone, Patricia. “Measures of obliviousness and disarming obliqueness in Anna Burns’ Milkman.” Textual practice (2021): 1-32,
Marková, Michaela. “Narratives of difference: critical (re-)assessment of contemporary Troubles novels.” PhD diss., Trinity College Dublin, 2015.
Mazek, Marissa. “Troubles Within: How Anna Burns’s Fiction Confronts Violence.” The Hollins Critic 57, no. 4 (2020): 1.
McCann, Fiona. “The Good Terrorist(s)’? Interrogating Gender and Violence in Anna Devlin’s ‘Naming the Names’ and Anna Burns’ No Bones.Estudios Irlandeses 7 (2012): 69-78.
McKittrick, David and David McVea. Making sense of the Troubles. London: Penguin Books, 2001.
Moretti, Franco. The way of the world: the Bildungsroman in European culture. London: Verso, 2000.
Parker, Michael. Northern Irish literature, 1975 - 2006: The Imprint of History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
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