Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Matthew Fehskens

Committee Members

Phyllis Thompson, Daniel Westover


The time of modernity, defined here as 1850-1940, contributed to massive changes in the representation of the feminine in literature. Societal paradigm shifts due to industrialism, advances in science, psychology, and a newfound push for gender equality brought transformation to the Western World. As a result of this, male frustrations revived the ancient trope of the femme fatale, but the modern woman—already hungry for agency, tired of maligned representation in heinous portrayals of skeletons, sirens, and beasts—saw a symbol begging for redemption rather than the intended insult. Women of the nineteenth century infused texture to a two-dimensional accusation that argued the only good female sexuality was one that could be contained. The redemption of the femme fatale is traced in this thesis through Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil (1857), Gabrielle D’Annunzio’s The Triumph of Death (1901), and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood (1936).

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access


Copyright by the authors.