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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Laura Doyle

Second Advisor

Stephen Clingman

Third Advisor

Ruth Jennison

Fourth Advisor

Karen Kurczynski

Subject Categories

Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Literature in English, British Isles | Literature in English, North America


In the decades following the end of the Great War, paranoia and panic about survival and sovereign control were driven by unprecedented death tolls from war, disease, and economic disaster as well as by revolutionary agitation around the globe. This fear was channeled into policing gender, sexuality, and race; and the parameters of white, middle-class womanhood were weaponized for social control in the transatlantic imaginary. In this study, I identify two rhetorical-political figures that helped to shape this imagination: Surplus Women and Trafficked Women. In my analysis of the literature, these figures help to contrast domestic scenes, on one hand, where the integration and fortification of national and racial identities is secured through white, middle-class, reproductive womanhood, with, on the other hand, the transience and mobility of threatening or transformative sexuality and racial ambiguity. Writing Against History therefore attends to narrative form as well as the political imaginary of gender and race in order to consider how women’s experimental writing participates in constructing or resisting national and colonial imagination. This dissertation argues that baroque aesthetics, recuperated and reculturated at the turn of the twentieth-century, aestheticize a tension between incommensurable forces, including life and death, pleasure and pain, love and fear. Focusing on four novels by modernist women from English, Anglo-Irish, American-Expatriate, and British-Creole contexts, I define a feminist baroque aesthetic potential in modernist narratives that do not simply resist but renegotiate the terms of white, middle-class womanhood forged by colonial-patriarchy. In their open and ambiguous narrative forms, feminist baroque narratives point to an ongoing individual and collective responsibility to recognize the narratives and social forms that demand or force certain visions of a future contingent on sexual, racial, and economic exploitation. This study’s juxtaposition of feminist baroque aesthetics and the interwar historical context reorganizes and renegotiates the relationships between texts, readers, and modernism, as well as between subjects, nations, and war. The interwar period, in this baroque modernist context, is re-seen as its own vanishing point that, like a baroque fold, can introduce imagined possibilities as well as a self-consciousness of personal responsibility in relation to those possibilities.