Date of Award

Spring 5-2019

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Emily B. Stanback

Advisor Department



Literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was concerned with madness. However, relatively little research has been done to indicate how supposed “madwomen” escaped patriarchal control. This thesis will analyze madwomen from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries and will argue that suicide appears in literature as the sole way that “mad” characters can resist patriarchal control. I examine the impact of self-harm and suicide in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria or the Wrongs of Woman; John Keats’s “Isabella and the Pot of Basil”; and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I connect self-harm to the desire to escape patriarchal control that is evident in literature of the Pre- Romantic, Romantic, and Victorian eras. I use social and medical contexts to consider the patriarchal biases present in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century society and put those biases in the context of literature.