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Representations of love in the novels of Jeanette Winterson from 1985 to 2000

Ellam, Julie Lisa


Julie Lisa Ellam



"What a strange world it is where you can have as much sex as you like but love is taboo. I'm talking about the real thing, the grand passion, which may not allow affection or convenience or happiness. The truth is that love smashes into your life like an ice floe, and even if your heart is built like the Titanic you go down." (TP 51)

This reference from Jeanette Winterson's "The Powerbook" typifies the value that love is given in her seven main novels. Love is idealised. It is also depicted as unavoidable, as unavoidable as the ice floe and as potentially destructive. Idealised, inevitable love is the thread that connects Winterson's writing together.

Winterson's representations of love and the paradox at the heart of these representations are the primary concerns of this thesis. On the one hand love provides the opportunity for searching for freedom and for crossing barriers of sexuality in her work. This freedom is sought through the questioning of the dominance of heterosexuality in Western discourses of love. Winterson's writing takes pleasure in the concept of the forbidden fruit and challenges the discourses that have legitimised heterosexuality and unhappy marriages. It is understood in her work that normative practices have traditionally been a weapon to marginalise. On the other hand, she posits that love and the effect of loving are transcendent. Love surpasses the everyday. It is special. By suggesting the possibility of transcendence Winterson is enabling the maintenance of hierarchical thinking. Winterson's paradoxical position surfaces when love is heightened as a transcendent emotion. This is a political, material paradox because by allowing for hierarchical thinking her work ultimately maintains rather than deconstructs binary oppositions, whilst simultaneously urging that love should be available to all regardless of sex or sexuality.


Ellam, J. L. (2003). Representations of love in the novels of Jeanette Winterson from 1985 to 2000. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date May 4, 2012
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords English
Public URL
Additional Information Department of English, The University of Hull
Award Date Apr 1, 2003


Thesis (13.5 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2003 Ellam, Julie Lisa. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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