Date of Award

8-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

English

Major Professor

Urmila Seshagiri

Committee Members

Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud, Lisi Schoenbach

Abstract

Queer theory predominantly aligns normative relations to normative experiences of time and connects queer affiliations to queer temporal spaces. Heterosexuality, marriage, sexual reproduction, and the family are hallmarks of normative temporality, as they enact and maintain a progressive, future-oriented, genealogical timeline. However, normative attachments do not always follow queer theory’s narrative of straight time. Closely observing the structure of normative relationships and, in terms of my study specifically, marriage, uncovers assumptions constructing the constitution of normative temporality. I discuss queer theoretical works by Lee Edelman, Jack Halberstam, José Esteban Muñoz, and others to see how current theories typically oversimplify normative relations’ alignment to normative temporality. One way to view the shortcomings of the predetermined bond between normativity and normative temporality is modernist literature. For my study, I examine the temporality of social arrangements and, more specifically, marriage in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. As the novel transpires over a single day’s time and is mostly told through the seamless shifts from one individual’s consciousness to another’s, Mrs. Dalloway enacts modernist literary features, and through this style, Woolf’s portrayals of marriage challenge the progressive, linear narrative of normative temporality. Mrs. Dalloway’s depiction of Septimus and Lucrezia Smith’s marriage and Clarissa and Richard Dalloway’s marriage illustrates the temporal intricacies that compose marital relationships. Septimus and Lucrezia’s marriage is degenerative, unhappy, and non-reproductive. While they participate in a heterosexual marital relationship, normative temporality does not encompass the particularities of their experiences. With the Dalloways, they maintain a long marriage, have a daughter, and participate in aristocratic society and national politics. The Dalloways seem to embody all aspects of normative life. And yet, as Clarissa and Richard have fulfilled the expectations of normative temporality, the question of whether they can progress further is unclear. By examining the novel’s treatment of the Smiths’ and Dalloways’ marriages, I argue that heterosexual marital attachments are not always normative temporal spaces but are realms of complexity which can question rather than purely reinforce normative temporality’s constitution.

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