Student Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

B.A. with honors

Honors Designation


Program of Study




First Advisor

Matthew Eatough

Second Advisor

Harold Ramdass

Third Advisor

Rafael Walker


Pragmatic feminism is a philosophy which utilizes and merges the fundamental concepts of pragmatism, such as its emphasis on pluralism and lived experience, with feminist theory in hopes of inciting social change. The main goals of pragmatic feminism are to recover the work of women who were influential in the popularization of American pragmatism but were also excluded from the history of philosophy, to analyze the “canon” of lauded pragmatist philosophers through a feminist lens, and to yield pragmatist philosophies as a weapon for contemporary feminist activism. In my study, I argue that feminist utopian literature can be a serviceable asset to the philosophy of pragmatic feminism. I analyze a range of works spanning centuries, from early feminist utopias such as City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan and Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, to more contemporary novels such as The Female Man by Joanna Russ and A Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. Through a careful, analytical exploration of Gilman’s imaginary universe, I derive a plethora of critiques of modern society, with an eye to how the text reconciles with the subjects of language, motherhood, and race. I then utilize these critiques as anchors in the process of analyzing a variety of works by contemporary authors of varying perspectives and backgrounds, so as to create a comprehensible roadmap of the pro-women movement through the lens of utopian feminist literature. Through analysis of feminist texts spanning decades, I show that the utopian genre can be a practical asset to social change by providing a vision for a society ailing from social systems that disadvantage women.


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