Date of Award

5-6-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Janet Ann Gabler-Hover

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Schmidt

Third Advisor

Dr. LeeAnne Richardson

Abstract

This dissertation reads women’s utopian literature from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in order to understand how authors both famous and unknown used women’s political liberation as the foundation for utopian revolutions. Taking up novels from the United States and the United Kingdom, this transatlantic project connects well-known authors such as George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Pauline Hopkins, Lady Florence Dixie, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman to obscure writers like Lillian B. Jones Horace, Mary E. Bradley Lane, Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett, Annie Denton Cridge, and Mary Griffith. Chapter I explores how Gaskell and Eliot used different conceptions of “utopia” to connect women’s rights and worker’s rights. Chapter II examines issues of movement, borders, and identity in Gilman’s utopian trilogy. Chapter III combines Freudian psychoanalysis, critical race theory, and gender studies to argue that utopia and melancholy are interrelated psychical responses to the traumas of race, gender, and sexuality. Finally, Chapter IV looks at how Cridge and Dixie deconstruct the gender binary in ways that reveal gender to be entirely social, constitutive, and performative. Rather than treat women’s utopian literature as a genre too politically stunted for modern readers, this dissertation instead looks at these novels as representative of women’s radical political visions that have yet to come to fruition. In this way, this project argues that our modern utopian visions should be influenced and informed by ones from over hundred years ago.

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