• Representations of female sexual desire in four novels by women from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

      Castellano, Viviana (University of Bedfordshire, 2013-10)
      This thesis discusses the way in which female sexual desire is represented in four novels written by women during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It analyses the protagonists’ wish for sexual fulfilment and emancipation and explores the extent to which these novels may be regarded as proto-feminist. Drawing primarily upon the theories of Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Toril Moi, and Sigmund Freud, the thesis will examine Fantomina (1725) by Eliza Haywood, Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796) by Mary Hays, Aurora Floyd (1863) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon and The Awakening (1899) by Kate Chopin. It argues that each text offers an exposé of the power of the patriarchal social order which seeks to define and dominate a woman’s capacity for sexual desire. The findings show that each of the female protagonists may be seen as a strong and fearless heroine, but each one may also be seen as a victim of an oppressive patriarchy. The study concludes that although positive and negative elements co-exist within these novels, by interrogating their different representations of female sexual desire it is possible to acquire a more nuanced understanding of the texts and their contribution to the liberation of women.