Term of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Literature and Philosophy

Committee Chair

Caren J. Town, Ph.D.

Committee Member 1

David L. Dudley, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2

Olivia Carr Edenfield, Ph.D.


In her landmark works The House of Mirth (1905), The Custom of the Country (1913), and The Age of Innocence (1920), Edith Wharton responds to earlier depictions of the classical, pure Victorian and Edwardian woman. Wharton's "inconvenient" women overturn popular stereotypes. Subsequently, they are barred from their social groups, but they are independent, unlike the complicit and obedient women of the classical body, most of whom ascribe to the trope of the "Angel in the House." The grotesque seeks to undercut the unrealistic expectations enforced by the classical through its embodiment of progression and humanity, and Wharton is drawn to its libertine nature. Using theorists and critics such as Mikhail Bakhtin, Laura Mulvey, and Judith Butler, as well as secondary critics Emily J. Orlando, Claire Preston, and Elizabeth Ammons, this thesis will explore Wharton's preoccupation with the grotesque and her ultimate preference for the transitional body--a combination of the two opposing ideals.

Research Data and Supplementary Material