May Sinclair was one of the most widely read and successful English women
novelists of the first half of the twentieth century. She had interests and themes in common with many of those now considered to have been at the heart of
English modernism. In terms of formal experimentation too her concerns
chime with the aesthetic innovations of, for example, pound, Eliot and Woolf.
Her early interest in psychoanalysis and support for the suffrage campaign also
mark her out as a modern. Despite some work from feminist literary critics and
her partial categorisation as modernist, however, her work still lacks a critical framework within which it can be read. Indeed, some of the work done by
feminist critics on her has paradoxically re-marginalised her.
In this thesis I aim to provide one critical framework through which Sinclair's
work can be read. My contention is that the occluding of one aspect of her
work and thought- its movement toward intellectual, emotional and aesthetic
wholeness - has marred previous critical readings of her. By paying attention
to this through a focus on discourses of cure, this thesis reads Sinclair's work with an awareness of its language, cultural context and intertextual relations.
Early twentieth-century medical discourse, psychoanalysis, mysticism, the
chivalric and the psychical are all used to read the works. At the same time,
my aim is to read Sinclair's work without eliding its difficulties. Rather, I aim to read her in a way that acknowledges the difficulties of and fraught moments
in her writing as markers of its significance.