Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Swanson, Diana L.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


American literature; Women's studies


This thesis uses Virginia Woolf's essay "On Being Ill" in order to examine her novel The Waves, and Paule Marshall's novel Praisesong for the Widow. In each of these novels, the main female protagonists are experiencing mental pain that becomes manifested physically. Although each of them are experiencing pain for multiple reasons, their pain at the core is caused by certain societal institutions such as marriage, motherhood, and the medical field. In order to get past their pain and move toward healing, all of the women examined here use their deviant sexualities. Deviancy, here, is defined as anything going against societal norms. Therefore, even though these women are not necessarily queer, their sexualities are still deviant because they use sex for their own pleasure rather than the pleasure of others. Deviant sexuality allows each of these women to move from a space of cultural construction into a space of self re-construction, where they do not have to confine themselves to what is expected by the society around them. The resistances that are forged by these female characters can then be used by women in the real world, where these institutions also affect everyday life.


Advisors: Diana Swanson.||Committee members: Melissa Adams-Campbell; Amy Newman.||Includes bibliographical references.


51 pages




Northern Illinois University

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