Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Paul Schmidt

Second Advisor

Randy Malamud

Third Advisor

LeeAnne Richardson


Media production will often sexualize their products, creating an encumbrance to asexual representation, all under the guise that “sex sells.” Because of that belief in the selling power of sexualization, there has been little asexual representation, preventing people from understanding asexuals or even realizing they are asexual. It wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that asexuality came to mean feeling no, little, or conditional sexual attraction. Accepting that asexuality is, at least in some part, inherent and that aspects of life that lack the adequate language to be explicitly stated are still capable of being artistically expressed, then it follows that there are asexual characters and asexual stories that were created prior to the mid-twentieth century. This enables readers to find intersections between implicitly expressed asexuality and literature. My research is a re-imagining of established queer theory through the lens of asexuality. I then take that new critical framework and apply it to long nineteenth century British Literature, before the term “asexual” gained its meaning as we understand it today, and identify potentially asexual characters and narratives. The readings conducted discover new ways to read characters like Emma Woodhouse and Aurora Leigh. But, beyond that, these readings also explore new ways of being that are not bound by compulsory sexuality. The implications of this research are two-fold: first, to reclaim a compendium of lost texts as “asexual literature” in much the same way feminist literary theory did in the sixties and seventies; secondly, to dispel the modern notion that sex is integral to every person’s happiness and well-being and illustrate that asexual characters can be a core component to media that is compelling, popular, and profitable. By dispelling that myth, this research will encourage modern media production to reconsider asexuality in their work. Those works will contribute to making asexuality more visible so that the next generation of asexuals will not have to struggle for decades before they finally realize who they are.


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