Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Amy J. Elias

Committee Members

Thomas J. Haddox, Mary E. Papke


The purpose of this study is to explore a controversial dimension of feminist literature: that dimension concerning female masochism. My study centers on international novels written by women after World War II. The novels are The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark, Gordon by Edith Templeton, and The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek. This thesis examines three highly individualized tales of control and power that posit female masochism as means for “active submission.” I claim that while the feminist politics of these texts is ambiguous, protagonists of these novels redefine masochism as “active submission,” and as a result, they challenge the binary oppositions forming patriarchal gender categories. By examining these three texts, this thesis shows how literature intervenes in the discourse about female masochism. It intervenes by focusing on submissive women who often are dismissed by the feminist community as making ignorant or coerced decisions.

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