Education as problem and solution in some novels by Edith Searle Grossman and Olive Schreiner : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University
In this thesis I examine selected novels of two contemporary feminist writers, Edith Searle Grossmann of New Zealand and Olive Schreiner of South Africa. As citizens of the British Empire they each inherited a common literary tradition and similar cultural norms. Through their writing the authors explore the inferior status of women in society, and the role played by education in reinforcing female subordination and perpetuating male hegemony. At the same time they both suggest how education can be the means for empowering women to overcome patriarchal domination. My theoretical approach has been eclectic. I have drawn freely from various schools of literary criticism -- Historical, Marxist, Feminist, structuralist and Post-Structuralist.
Accepting the premise that Grossmann and Schreiner are themselves historical characters, their writing can be regarded as an historical product, because it represents their response to the imperatives of their age. 'Its subject matter, language and style are moulded by the authors' consciousness of the times. By examining the sub-text in their novels, I have tried to expose some of the contradictions and confusions which represent their subconscious response to the age, that is, evidence of the authors' own "education" and unacknowledged acceptance of patriarchal values.