Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Julia E Daniel
Pamela L Caughie
My project, Dissensual Women: Modernist Women Writers, the Senses, and Technology, analyzes depictions of the senses and technology in modernist women's writing. I argue that modernist women writers challenge traditional sensory hierarchies that value the so-called masculine senses of sight and sound and denigrate the so-called feminine senses of smell, taste, and touch. H.D., Mina Loy, Virginia Woolf, and Elizabeth Bowen revalue the feminine senses, challenge sensory elitism, and advocate for an inclusive sensorium, one that features the perceptions and experiences of women, queer women, the lower classes, the nonhuman, and the differently abled. They wage their dissent through experimentation with various technologies, ranging from the X-ray to the telephone. While technological invention is not unique to the twentieth century, the twentieth century is oft-recognized as a period of rapid technological change, one that incited a "crisis of the senses." New technologies produced new sensations and prompted modernist subjects to question and redefine what it meant to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. I place modernist women writers at the center of this sensory reclamation. In so doing, I shift the scholarly conversation away from the masculine senses of sight and sound, which have historically been privileged in modern scholarship, and toward the so-called lesser, feminine senses of smell, taste and touch. By examining the confluence among the senses, technology, and gender, and by including heretofore marginalized perspectives, I contribute a synthesis that revises our understanding of modernist women's everyday, lived experience. I also expand the conversation to address the subversive potential of sensory integration. My project removes the senses from the limited framework of the single-sense study to consider their place in the larger sensorium. In so doing, I challenge popular thinking, which suggests that technological innovation has contributed to the atomization of the senses. Instead, I illuminate the ways in which H.D., Loy, Woolf, and Bowen deploy technology to re-unify sensory reality or to draw attention to its destructive disunity.
DeMaagd, Allyson, "Dissensual Women: Modernist Women Writers, the Senses, and Technology" (2018). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 5469.