This thesis aims to answer the following questions: how do speculative and supernatural fictions of the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries imagine women's agency concerning motherhood? How do these novels challenge the ideas of stereotypical, domestic femininity? I explore these questions by analyzing pieces of non-realist fiction written by both men and women, which feature powerful, and often monstrous, mothers: Mary E. Bradley Lane's speculative feminist utopian novel, Mizora (1890), Bram Stoker's gothic horror novel, Dracula (1897), Frank Herbert's sweeping science-fiction epic, Dune (1965), and Angela Carter's feminist dystopian fiction, The Passion of New Eve (1977). I argue that feminist ideas emerging concurrent with the first and second waves in the 1890s and the 1960s–70s influence the novels' portrayals of women, as each novel imagines liberating and terrifying versions of motherhood that exceed the social norms of their day. Chapter 1 explores anxieties about motherhood concerning the figure of the New Woman. Both Dracula and Mizora represent women who are dissatisfied with traditional maternal roles. Although not speculative fiction, Dracula creates a space to imagine the "what if'' of the New Woman: what if women did reject their traditional roles, what if they pursue their desires? Chapter 2 examines two science-fiction novels of the 1960s–70s that offer fully realized, powerful maternal figures. Dune and Passion of New Eve, responding to the same social upheavals as second-wave feminist writers and activists were, envision possible worlds in which supernaturally powerful mothers are political and social leaders and gender roles have been more or less transformed.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
English; Literary, Cultural & Textual Studies
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Pruitt, Sarah, "Monstrous Mothers and Utopian Possibilities: Motherhood and Power in Speculative Novels of the Late-Nineteenth and Mid-Twentieth Centuries" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1784.
Restricted to the UCF community until August 2026; it will then be open access.