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Title page for ETD etd-03212006-234958

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Harris, Eugenia Kay
URN etd-03212006-234958
Title “Speak softly and carry a big stick”: female appropriation of the phallus in Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series
Degree Master of Arts
Department Liberal Arts and Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Michael Kreyling Committee Chair
Cecelia Tichi Committee Member
  • detective fiction
  • female detective
Date of Defense 2006-01-31
Availability unrestricted
In this thesis, I examine novelist Sara Paretsky’s use of voice as power in the V.I. Warshawski series. The series gives Paretsky the opportunity not only to use her own voice, but also to create new ones. It is in V.I.’s world that Paretsky is able to decide who gets to speak and what those speakers get to say—and what they do not get to say. In this study, I examine two categories of voices Paretsky uses throughout the series: the voice she creates and the voice she silences.

The voice that Paretsky creates is revealed in the community of women that V.I. embraces. This community consists of strong individuals who are even stronger collectively, women who take care of themselves and each other, who speak against the stereotypes and violence that society tries to use against them. The voice Paretsky silences is that of patriarchy. This voice is revealed in the violent men who target V.I. and seek to silence her. It also is embodied in the women who act as an extension of these men.

Throughout the series, the voices Paretsky creates and those she silences join together to promote an image that affirms, rather than demeans, women. In the end, Paretsky presents a series and a heroine that speak loudly, clearly, and defiantly.

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