Date of Thesis

Spring 2020


If sexual knowledge can threaten social and political institutions and their control, how do the contents and subjects of literature and publications in the interwar period make that legible? Moreover, if female sexuality–represented or real–was seen as something disruptive to the normal functioning of society, did sexuality offer a useful entry point for social, political, or ideological critiques of the interwar period? My project responds to these questions by analyzing the lives and writings of two female authors of the interwar period: Djuna Barnes (1892-1982) and Katharine Burdekin (1896-1963). In my analysis, I focus on two major points of connection. First, both of the authors lived a life which deviated from societal norms of gender and sexuality, which I argue influenced their own politics regarding sexuality and society. Second, each of the authors draw direct links between the sexual and the political in their writing and, I argue, use sexuality as a platform for social criticism and political intervention. More broadly, this project proposes an understanding of non-normative sexuality as something imbued with the political potential to disrupt or subvert heteronormative structures.


Modernism, Gender and Sexuality, Interwar Period, Katharine Burdekin, Djuna Barnes, Queer, Feminism, Dystopia, Fascism, Political Resistance

Access Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Arts



Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration

Women's and Gender Studies

First Advisor

Erica Delsandro

Second Advisor

Chase Gregory

Third Advisor

Ghislaine McDayter