Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Dennis Allen

Committee Co-Chair

Lara Farina

Committee Member

Marilyn Francus

Committee Member

Adam Komisaruk

Committee Member

Richard Sha


Error is both a purposeless wandering and a purposeful identification of a mistake. Each chapter analyzes texts from the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries which feature female characters and the epilogue turns to the autobiographical writing of a man in the 21st-century. Chapters on William Godwin's memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft, Amelia Alderson Opie's Dangers of Coquetry , Anne Plumptre's Something New, Harriet Martineau's Illustrations of Political Economy, and Thomas Beatie's autography Labor of Love feature characters---both real and fictional--- who destabilize what Bourdieu calls "collective[ly] misrecogn[ized]" understandings of identity as truth/error and "either/or." Utilizing notions of error developed by Zachary Sng and Seth Lerer, I take up the category of error as a provisional and tactical strategy to argue that identities, especially gender identities, are errant: wandering, nonsystematic, and nonsystematizable. In doing so, I dislodge the notion that identity is always systematic and demonstrate its queer errancy. I analyze British literature written during the Romantic era, specifically from 1790-1840, because these years help to set the stage for the emergence of sexual and gender identity categories throughout the rest of the 19th century---a period that shapes today's notions of sexuality and gender. Finally, the concept of errancy in particular addresses the concerns of scholars like Carla Freccero, Viviane Namaste and Steven Angelides who argue that "queer" has not yet gone far enough in its immateriality or in problematizing and addressing identity's fixity.