Date of Completion


Embargo Period



queer theory, gender/sexuality, temporality, suspension, affect, narrative form, Oscar Wilde, E.M. Forster, Radclyffe Hall, Virginia Woolf

Major Advisor

Sarah Winter

Associate Advisor

Margaret Breen

Associate Advisor

Victoria Ford Smith

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


“Living in the Impasse: British Writers and Non-Normative Identities, 1880-1940” engages queer theory, affect theory, and literary analysis to demonstrate literature’s affective capacity to provide writers with imaginative spaces in which to express non-normative gender and sexuality and queer modes of relating. Exploring key gender or sexually non-normative writers from the late Victorian through early modernist period, the project explicates how Oscar Wilde, E.M. Forster, Radclyffe Hall, and Virginia Woolf strategically used their writing to articulate the non-normative self not yet possible to be expressed without legal jeopardy and censorship in other social contexts. This dissertation develops the concept of “suspension” to delineate a narrative temporal category of a socially or legally excluded individual person’s, group’s, or narrative character’s, embodied experience of being in the world; it also describes the historical identity of a literary text either intentionally withheld (by an author) or prevented from publication (by censorship laws or restrictions against homosexuality). The project identifies critical affective moments in literary works to highlight writerly uses of the concept of suspension; for example, through suspending characters in spatio-temporal locations in which being differently in the world is presented as a hopeful possibility or something that might become possible, or by demonstrating the loneliness of a character’s life as stuck, or suspended, within contexts inimical to one’s ability to be or thrive in the world as they are. Through queer-focused affective-temporal readings that decenter heteronormativity (thereby making space for queer interpretation), “Living in the Impasse” thus chronicles historical literary expression of injustices enacted upon the non-normative being, while also registering authors’ cautious hope for future socio-legal acceptance of queerness. This study will prove valuable to those interested in how past writers experienced, negotiated, and represented marginalized identity—the realities of their present, as well as their imaginations for the future.

Available for download on Tuesday, August 05, 2025