Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Jeffers, Jennifer

Subject Headings

Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941, Waves, Masculinity in literature, Virginia Woolf, The waves, Masculinity, Gender, Imperialism


The Waves subtly subverts traditional notions of gender, and creates a space for divergent expressions of masculinity, specifically, the masculinity referred to in this paper relates to norms established in England during the Edwardian and Post World War I periods. In The Waves, the three male voices, Bernard, Neville and Louis, are introduced at school to a pro-imperialist vision of masculinity which is further reinforced through their relationship with the silent Percival. However, unlike Percival, the three male voice characters are either barred from the homosocial (Nevill and Louis) or are ambivalent to its production (Bernard). By employing masculinity theory we can see through The Waves Woolf destabilizes traditional male roles by normalizing expressions of masculinity outside patriarchal prescriptions. The Waves blurring of gender also allows, or creates an environment, where traditional male literary modes are destabilized. Bernard, through his becoming author at the end of the novel, holds the possibility for breaking the traditional mode of male writing through his desire to go beyond mere description of the corporeal and his search for deeper meaning. Such subversion is also heightened by the aesthetics of the text of The Waves, itself. While normalizing countertypical expressions of masculinity, The Waves opens up the possibility for a new way of reading a text outside of the male controlled literary tradition