Thesis

"Remember her room: feminizing spatial and architectural poetics"

In literary worlds, as in the actual world, women are often left without a space to call their own. Obliged instead to navigate men’s societal structures and homes, female characters naturally respond to the spaces they inhabit differently than their male counterparts. However, the most significant theoretical works of spatial and architectural poetics—branches of literary criticism and philosophy that make meaning of houses’ physical features—do not account for this difference in perception because these texts are predominantly authored by men. Indeed, Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, the most significant work in the field, omits any mention of domestic labor, assumes that his reader owns and is able to exact control over their home, and exclusively quotes other male writers; thus, the emotional impulses towards space as they currently exist in the field are profoundly privileged and inherently masculine. In order to respond to the gendered oversights in Bachelard’s argument, this project places his claims into conversation with female writers across time and space by explicating the houses represented in Charlotte Bronte’s Villette and Jane Eyre, Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, Toni Morrison’s Love, and Gloria Naylor’s Bailey’s Cafe. By analyzing these texts, the discrepancies between Bachelard’s masculine assertions regarding the experience of one’s home space and women’s experiences living in men’s houses become apparent and a new, feminized iteration of spatial and architectural poetics begins to emerge.

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