Date of Award

11-20-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Michael Galchinsky - Chair

Second Advisor

Calvin Thomas

Third Advisor

Lee Anne Richardson

Abstract

By Her Own Hand: Female Agency Through Self-Castration in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction explores the intentional methods of self-castration that lead to authorial empowerment. The project relies on the following self-castration formula: the author’s recognition of herself as a being defined by lack. This lack refers to the inability to signify within the phallocentric system of language. In addition to this initial recognition, the female author realizes writing for public consumption emulates the process of castration but, nevertheless, initiates the writing process as a way to resituate the origin of castration—placing it in her own hand. The female writer also recognizes her production as feminine and, therefore works to castrate her own femininity in her pursuit to create texts that are liberated from the critical assignation of “feminine productions.” Female self-castration is a violent act of displacement. As the author gains empowerment through the writing process, she creates characters that bear the mark of castration. The text opens a field of play in which the author utilizes the page as a way to cut, disfigure, or erase the feminine sexual body. On the authorial level, the feminine writer works through her self-castration process through the process of writing, editing, and publication. Within the text, her characters demonstrate a will toward liberation from authorial productive hegemony by carrying the mark of their creator’s castration and by taking on the power the process allocates to the writer.

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