Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lucy McDiarmid

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

Monika Elbert


Modernist writer Sylvia Townsend Warner satirically immortalizes fictive English subjects, most of whom are female, in her epitaph poetry. Writing in the voices of the deceased, their survivors, and, in some cases, the omniscient third person, Townsend Warner places each buried body back into the heterosexual domestic paradigm, thus critiquing earthly gender roles and expectations in these eternal etchings on the metaphoric gravestone. Rather than escaping their material conditions, the deceased are re-homed by Townsend Warner, though not in any romantic way. In these pithy epitaphs, the burial site mirrors the domestic site as it assumes the politics of marriage, childbirth, and childrearing and reveals domestic tensions, some intensified and others resolved by the respective subjects’ deaths. Judith Butler’s theories of gender, its prescription, and its enactment provide a useful framework through which to examine Townsend Warner’s irreverent posthumous representation of these deceased English women, men, and children doubly buried by the highly gendered language of their metaphoric but distinctly material epitaphs.

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