Death becomes her: modernism, femininity, and the erotics of death
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This project argues that modernist authors employ transgressive sexual desires both to disrupt and regulate femininity. Early twentieth-century cultural conditions generated anxiety about the increasing unruliness of femininity, the unhinging of gender from biological sex, and the parameters of sexual transgression. Avant-garde writers of the era illustrate the paradoxes of this anxiety by universalizing deviant sexual desires, particularly homosexuality and necrophilia, while simultaneously employing such queer strategies as a means to both accentuate and control unruly femininity. What results is a desire to restore gender differences between men and women, but in new terms made possible through the so-called liberation of perversion. This project reads three key avant-garde modernist texts-D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love, James Joyce's Ulysses, and Djuna Barnes's Nightwood-within their cultural and literary influences to unlock the technologies of power that link transgressive desire and passive femininity. By arguing that desire was indispensable to the construction of a modernist iconography of desire, identity, and embodiment, this project attempts to unravel how the modernist fascination with passivity and femininity helped to usher in new ways of understanding gender and sexuality as both liberating an.
Access is limited to the campus of the University of Missouri--Columbia.