Added: February 6, 2016 – Last updated: February 6, 2016


Author: Marcia Anne Newton

Title: Sexual Trauma, Psychosis, and Betrayal in Antonia White's Autobiographical Fiction

Subtitle: A Critical Examination of the Freudian Perspective

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Sheffield

Advisor: Glenys Parry

Year: November 2014


Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | European History: English History | Representations: Literature / Antonia White; Victims: Trauma


Link: White Rose Etheses Online: Repository of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York (Free Access)



»In Catholic writer Antonia White’s series of autobiographical novels, Frost in May, The Lost Traveller, The Sugar House, and Beyond the Glass, readers are presented with a Freudian Oedipal drama that sends the main protagonist spiraling into psychosis and then back into her father’s arms upon recovery. This trajectory draws a parallel with White’s history. Literary critics and biographers on White have suggested that she was a victim of father-daughter incest. My aim in this thesis, however, is not to prove that White was a victim of sexual abuse. I seek to illustrate the limitations and possibilities of validating sexual trauma in autobiographical fiction using White’s diaries as scaffolding for this examination.
This thesis is divided into four chapters. Chapter One is an analysis of a problematic Oedipal drama in White’s autobiographical fiction that leads to a proposed theoretical conundrum in psychoanalytical concepts of sexual trauma and psychosis. Chapter Two is a study of the form and theory of the autobiographical novel and the author-protagonist relationship. Also, at the intersection of psychoanalytic and literary theoretical paradigms, I explore the extent to which White’s metaphorical descriptions of psychosis generate a coherent depiction of self and lived traumatic experience within the confines of an Oedipal narrative. In so doing, I propose a space be carved for White’s experiences to be taken seriously as authentic expressions of trauma. Chapter Three explores larger socio-cultural patriarchal attitudes of women’s sexuality in which I draw parallels between Freud’s construction of the incest barrier and religious notions of female sexuality. In Chapter Four I juxtapose literary and clinical writings of contemporary trends on sexual trauma, memory, and betrayal to illustrate the shifts in focus and yet subtle presence of Freud’s Oedipus complex theory in Western society today.« (Source: Thesis)


  Acknowledgements (p. 3)
  Abstract (p. 4)
  Introduction (p. 7)
    (Auto)Biographical Information on Antonia White (p. 7)
    Conflicting Psychoanalytical Theories of Sexual Trauma (p. 14)
    A Crisis of Self-Expression in White's Autobiographical Fiction (p. 20)
    Socio-Cultural Notions of Female Sexuality (p. 25)
    Contemporary Trends on Sexual Trauma, Memory, and Betrayal (p. 29)
  Chapter One. Freud's Oedipus Complex and Conflicting Psychoanalytic Theories of Sexual Trauma in Relation to Antonia White's Autobiographical Novels (p. 33)
    Non-Resolution of Oedipus Complex in Antonia White's Autobiographical Novels (p. 35)
    Conflicting Psychoanalytic Theories of Sexual Trauma and Psychosis (p. 65)
  Chapter Two. Psychosis: A Crisis of Self-Expression in 'The House of Clouds' and Beyond the Glass (p. 78)
    Form and Theory of Autobiographical Novel (on Personality) (p. 80)
    Memory and Identity (p. 94)
    Psychosis and Agency of Alter Ego (p. 101)
  Chapter Three. Paradoxical Notions of Sexual Expression in Frost in May: A Story of Betrayal (p. 118)
    Catholic Pedagogical Practices (p. 121)
    Maternal Devouring (p. 128)
    Sexual Transgression, Confession, and a Transformation of Desire (p. 135)
  (Chapter Four.) Contemporary Trends on Sexual Trauma, Memory, and Betrayal in Clinical Practice and Trauma Theory: A Comparative Study (p. 156)
    Rise of the Feminist Movement on Sexual Abuse (p. 158)
    Trauma and the 'Unspeakable' in Literary Studies (p. 169)
    Maternal Betrayal (p. 175)
    Writing Autobiographical Fiction towards Healing (p. 185)
  Conclusion (p. 191)
  Afterword (p. 198)
  Works Cited (p. 199)

Wikipedia: History of Europe: History of England, Literature: English literature | 20th-century English writers: Antonia White | Psychological trauma