Abstract

The heroines of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Chopin’s The Awakening enjoy the autonomy of privileged motherhood in the nineteenth century. This role allows them the opportunities to forge their identities independent of most of the societal expectations which defined nineteenth-century feminine gender roles. The spinster enjoyed independence and yet had limited social interactions due to her perceived lack of femininity. By contrast, most mothers from lower and middle class backgrounds had fulfilled the idealized maternal role at the expense of independence and self-determination. In the context of nineteenth-century gender roles, the privileged mother enjoys the combined best aspects of spinsterhood (independence) and motherhood (perceived biological essentialism and social acceptance). The similarities between the positions of the protagonists of Anna Karenina and The Awakening are striking when one considers that these novels were written in dissimilar cultures and geographical locations. Russian nobility was based on family connections and historical precedence dating back centuries, whereas Louisiana nobility was relatively recent and implied wealth. The depictions of privileged motherhood in both books are different, but both represent a cross-cultural paradigm shift in the roles of women that would reflect the concerns of first wave feminists including Elizabeth Cady Stanton who wrote: “the woman is uniformly sacrificed to the wife and mother” (14). The novels depict women who are wives and mothers and yet retain their agency due to their status. Their journeys represent a rebellion against these gender roles. Their privileged mother statuses do not grant them complete autonomy and the tensions between their relative autonomy and an ideal autonomy lead to suicide scenes that represent a pursuit of an ultimately sublime experience

Department

English & Comparative Literature Department

Degree Name

MA in English & Comparative Literature

Date of Award

6-1-2013

Online Submission Date

February 2015

First Advisor

Dworkin, Ira

Committee Member 1

Dr. Ferial Ghazoul, Ferial

Committee Member 2

Abdel sser, Tahia

Document Type

Thesis

Extent

47 p.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910 An Kareni.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Chopin, Kate, 1850-1904. Awakening

Rights

The author retains all rights with regard to copyright. The author certifies that written permission from the owner(s) of third-party copyrighted matter included in the thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study has been obtained. The author further certifies that IRB approval has been obtained for this thesis, or that IRB approval is not necessary for this thesis. Insofar as this thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study is an educational record as defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 USC 1232g), the author has granted consent to disclosure of it to anyone who requests a copy.

IRB

Approval has been obtained for this item

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