Thesis Title

A Feminist Analysis of the Implications of Darwin's Theory of Sexual Selection on English Literature

Date of Graduation

Spring 1999


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Jane Hoogestraat


In this thesis, I propose that Darwin's theory of sexual selection was often misinterpreted by upper class Victorian males in order to justify the mistreatment of both upper and working class women. Literature also reflected some of these misinterpretations of Darwin's theory regarding gender and class. However, I am specifically concerned with ways in which either James Joyce in Ulysses and W.B. Yeats in the poems the "Three Bushes" and the six attendant songs either confirm or defy sexual selection. I am primarily concerned with ways in which these authors viewed gender and class stereotypes, and whether they believed that this behavior was fixed, and therefore destiny. In the thesis, I conclude that James Joyce's depiction is revolutionary in that he allows women to be uninhibited, sexual, and thereby defying both intrasexual competition and Victorian values. However, I then conclude that Yeats's depiction of both class and gender reflect both Victorian values and parts of sexual selection.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Jennifer A Graham