Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Asexuality has recently gained recognition and visibility as a legitimate sexual orientation and identity standpoint that is usually defined as lacking sexual desire for any gender. Popular culture and the academy have both seen the emergence of a robust conversation about the definition and import of asexuality, recognizing the term as an umbrella concept covering an ever-diversifying array of identities. Within the nascent critical discourse on asexuality, theorists have sought to identify asexuality as a sexual orientation, to rethink our society’s sexual normativity, and to question compulsory sexuality, or the assumption that sexual desire is intrinsic to all people, thus inviting a rethinking of established notions of human sexuality. Using this questioning as a driving force of the field, scholars have begun theorizing a way to use asexuality as a lens to view cultural artifacts and texts to seek out places to find traces or resonances of asexuality throughout history. I propose an asexual critical lens—a practice of reading texts and figures to highlight the influence of and resistance to compulsory sexuality. I apply this lens to examine several theatrical figures from dramatic literature who resist compulsory sexuality. Without defining these characters as asexual in the twenty-first century sense, I argue that framing them in relation compulsory sexualities past and present offers us new insights into those texts and adds to an asexual performance archive that can render asexuality as a possibility throughout history.



Committee Chair

Fletcher, John