Date

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Adviser

Foltz, Mary

Abstract

This thesis explores the reasons why marginalized female characters living in fictionalized versions of 1970s America prove resistant to communal utopian visions through Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time and Joanna Russ's The Female Man. In both Piercy and Russ's texts, this thesis finds that contemporary characters are held back from feminist revolution by a deep discomfort with the breaking down of the gender and sexual norms around which much of cis-gendered women's identities are constructed. In The Female Man, this thesis further suggests that contemporary characters are also held back by radical communities’ unwillingness or inability to reach out to, and frame their messages for, mainstream audiences in such a way so that they can understand. In this way, this thesis emphasizes how critical it is for radical communities to reach out to audiences that may prove reluctant to their visions for the future initially. In both Piercy and Russ’s texts, this thesis argues that contemporary characters are helped to overcome their resistance to radical utopian visions through three varieties of non-coercive consciousness raising, including: (1) conversations between women who are not yet conscious of their suffering and women who are very aware of the nature of women’s oppression, (2) women encouraging other women to take revolutionary action and providing them with a blueprint for how to get started, and (3) rapid juxtapositions of present violence against future social forms which would disrupt and do away with that violence. Finally, this thesis suggests that this kind of rapid juxtaposition between present oppression and future liberation is only really possible within literature and film.

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