Well Enough Alone: an Exploration of Feminine Solitude in Four American Novels


May 2023


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This dissertation studies representations of feminine solitude in four American novels: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. My approach is informed by the American literary tradition’s tendency, via Emerson and Thoreau, to present solitude as something particularly masculine. The case for analyzing feminine solitude is supported by many feminist critics, including Nina Baym and Carol Gilligan. These critics show an underrepresentation of women as contributing figures in the American literary canon and criticize the traditional casting of women as the weaker sex. My reading of each character under analysis in her mode of solitude takes shape through the ontological thought of Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Friedrich Hölderlin. In this dissertation, I consider female characters who are written by men in order to see how those authors most rooted in the American canon constructed the type of person unconsidered by society and underrepresented in literature: a willful, solitary woman.



Literature, American