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Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in English



Major Advisor

Gautam Basu Thakur, Ph.D.


Cheryl Hindrichs, Ph.D.


Clyde Moneyhun, Ph.D


This project examines three contemporary women’s texts: Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher (1983), Hannan al-Shaykh’s The Story of Zahra (2004), and Yoko Ogawa’s Hotel Iris (2010). The central protagonists in all three novels – Erika, Zahra, and Mari - engage in acts of self-depreciation, appearing to be relinquishing autonomy. However, these schemes are arranged by the characters themselves, demonstrating intent and control over each scenario; this thesis claims these acts of self-torture are perverse orchestrations for reclaiming subjective autonomy. These texts are commonly read as cultural and historical representations, undermining individual experiences. While I recognize there are cultural and political influences that shape these characters and their behaviors, I restrict my analysis to exploring psychological causes for their actions with the theoretical support of Sigmund Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) and, later, Gilles Deleuze’s “Coldness and Cruelty” (1967).