Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

David Humphries

Committee Members

Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Modern Literature | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Keywords

Gilman, Eliot, Woolf, Gender, Language, Wardrobe, Dress, Pockets, Embodiment

Abstract

This thesis is an examination of how authors of the late Victorian and early Twentieth Century describe the embodied and mental effects of the nature of women’s clothing through works of fiction and nonfiction. Through this analysis, I argue that clothing serves as a mechanism to oppress women by eliminating concrete and philosophical access to wealth and necessities as well as by instigating acts of violence upon a developing body through stricture and hygiene. I examine the ways that feminine dress, from youth through adulthood, shapes the way women view themselves, and in turn has a reciprocal effect on how they view their place in the world. I work primarily through the writing of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, but use George Eliot and Virginia Woolf to give contextual contrast to my arguments. In addition, I employ a variety of methods of literary theory, drawing primarily from a cultural materialist and Marxist perspective of embodiment and means, but also diving into esoteric views of literary narratives, fashion theory, and the history of fashion. I conclude that the patriarchal imposition placed upon women’s garments is emblematic of the historical, patriarchal oppression.

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