Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. Darlene Farabee

Second Advisor

Dr. Benjamin Hagen

Third Advisor

Dr. Lisa Ann Robertson


Feminine Literature, Hélène Cixous, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, patriarchy

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


This thesis discusses Hélène Cixous’ ideas on feminine literature, as expressed in her article, “The Laugh of Medusa,” and attempts to apply the goals that she sets out for what feminine literature must look like in order to develop the literary cannon to the novel. In an attempt to pull away from traditional patriarchal images and expectations of feminine lifestyles, I join Cixous’ call for the marginalized to inscribe their voices into the cannon for themselves, and argue that representation of such images in literature is necessary to the development of our biased perceptions to more authentically represent typically marginalized groups. I examine three examples, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Woolf’s Night and Day, and Morrison’s Sula, which I argue to be historical examples of novels that both portray and question the limits that patriarchal structure places on femininity. In each of these works, I discuss female characters and their relationships with parental figures, other women, and romantic interests, where preconceptions of femininity based on patriarchal tradition are present, and suggest how these characters are able to show a more nuanced representation of feminine identity. As boundaries placed on women have evolved over time, as have our preconceptions of femininity, and the perspective from within marginalized positions within symbolic order must be shared in order to continue the development of meanings understood within our culture.



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