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Reconstructing the embodied feminine: sexuality, postcolonialism and revolt against Victorian morality in Olive Schreiner's the Story of an African Farm




Wickizer, Kristina Rhiannon, author
Frank, Katherine, advisor
Souder, Donna, committee member
Taylor, Ted, committee member

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In this thesis, I argue that Olive Schreiner’s 1883 novel. The Story of an African Farm, though most often dismissed as an example of “New Woman” literature, is, in fact, a scathing look at sexuality in a postcolonial society. Moreover, by understanding the role, or lack thereof, that sexuality had in Victorian society, modern scholars can see the ways that sexuality and an individual’s expression of it are still limited by socially constructed ideologies. In the first section, titled a “Review of Literature,” I quote Edward Said’s argument that postcolonialism needs a variety of voices in order to better understand the effects of imperialism on the colonized. Consequently, The Story of an African Farm is important to the field, because it offers the experience of a white English woman living in South Africa. I then show how Olive Schreiner’s novel added to the discussion and the rise of the New Woman novel. Discussing these two different literary traditions allows me to contextualize the importance of imperialism and the “new” feminism in my reading of The Story of an African Farm. In the second section, titled "^Argument,'' I argue that Schreiner’s depiction of her characters’ sexuality allows us to discuss the societal limitations placed on an individual’s sexuality. I conclude by summarizing the ways in which sexuality is still a personal construct that society tries to control and label. I then suggest future implications for how the limitations of gender and sexuality can be discussed in regards to feminist and imperialist studies today.


Covers not scanned.
Print version deaccessioned 2022.

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Feminism in literature


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