Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

Document Type




This dissertation explores the representations of deviant and criminal women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from Transatlantic to metatheoretical perspectives by comparing the literary production of the New Woman and Radical Naturalism. It argues that the author’s sex is relevant in depictions of social constructions of female characters that established a dialogue on the basis of gender through the themes of femme fatale, marginal spaces, eugenics, and social Darwinism in the novels of Emilia Pardo Bazán’s La piedra angular (1891), La gota de sangre (1911), and “Tio Terrones” (1920); Refugio Barragán de Toscano’s La hija del bandido o los subterráneos del nevado (1887); Federico Gamboa’s Santa (1903); Kate Chopin’s (Katherine O’Flaherty) The Awakening (1899); Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891); and Grand’s Ideala (1888). The first chapter explores the deconstruction of the femme fatale model by first-wave feminist authors Grand, Pardo Bazán, Barragán de Toscano, and Hardy. The second chapter addresses the construction of the female character as a deviant or criminal whose situation cannot be resolved and the manner in which the brothel, the cave, the countryside, the house, and the inn as heterotopias or liminal spaces intervene in such as perception. In the third chapter, I study not only in a Transatlantic context, but also in a transcultural one, the vital role of eugenics and social Darwinism in the narratives of Santa and Tess. This part explains how both novels respectively deploy portrayals of female characters respectively and how these novels express concerns about science, social inequality, social abuse, marginality, and crime. Finally, in the conclusion I highlight these unique comparisons and illustrate how the texts maintain a dynamic gendered conversation through the representations of female character. I show how Radical Naturalism and New Woman perspectives juxtapose in certain aspects of depictions of deviant or criminal women and how authors of the first feminist wave creatively used literary works models to portray strong female characters even in adverse social environments. Overall, the dissertation shows that the gendered exchanges of ideas took place across the Atlantic Basin despite the historical disparities.



Committee Chair

Heneghan, Dorota



Available for download on Friday, July 30, 2027