Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Karem, Frederick

Subject Headings

Chopin, Kate, 1850-1904, Awakening -- Criticism and interpretation, Homosexuality and literature, Lesbians in literature, Lesbianism, The Awakening homoerotic lesbianism

Abstract

Many feminist critics view Edna Pontellier, the protagonist in Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening, as the prototype of the New Woman in search of independence from the patriarchal constraints that suffocate her, including sexual rules and restrictions. Most of these critics frame Edna in a traditional heterosexual world. Although The Awakening overtly focuses on male-female relationships, Edna's relationships with her women friends are more varied, nuanced, and comprehensive than those with men. I argue that Edna's desires are not purely heterosexual which is revealed through several secondary characters in the novel, and that Chopin employs safer heterosexual themes, plots and conventions as a protective cover for the more dangerous, subversive topics which lie underneath. I will show that Edna Pontellier and The Awakening can and should be viewed more queerly with the term queer being defined as "whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant."

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