Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Queering Ever After: Temporality, Magic, and Endings in Victorian Fairy Tales Public Deposited

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  • This thesis analyzes two Victorian fairy tales that feature queer endings, or endings that offer alternatives to the heteronormative fairy-tale tradition that idealizes heterosexual marriage and the biological family. In both George MacDonald’s The Wise Woman (1875) and E. Nesbit’s “The Island of the Nine Whirlpools” (1901), I argue that magic enables queer modes of being in time, motivating relationships between women and creating possibilities outside a life dictated by patriarchy that endure through the story’s ending. Chapter 1 focuses on The Wise Woman, using Jack Halberstam’s theory of queer temporality to show how the novella complicates linear narratives of development from childhood to adulthood, thereby challenging heteronormative understandings of life stages. While many fairy tales’ endings uphold the family, The Wise Woman concludes with a disruption to the family, and in this disruption, provides new ways for women to claim agency and relate with one another. Chapter 2 shifts to “The Island of the Nine Whirlpools,” which, conversely, is queer because of the way the story’s ending upholds the family through its idealization of a queer, polymaternal family. Throughout the story, magic enables the separation of reproduction from both biology and marriage, which results in a queered time of inheritance as well as a significant relationship between two women. Together, these chapters suggest queerness is a potential escape from the heterosexist patriarchy and the life narratives it demands from women, while providing an alternative genealogy of the fairy tale that makes greater space for subversion and non-normativity.
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