Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in English

First Advisor

Annette Trefzer

Second Advisor

Ian Whittington

Third Advisor

Jaime Harker


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



This dissertation looks at the work of four women writers—Martha Gellhorn, Elizabeth Bowen, Pearl S. Buck, and Rebecca West—who are united in their transnational commitment to critiquing the global rise of fascism and the fraught democratic imperatives of their own countries. “Reimagining the Radical” focuses on the temporal gap between modernism and postmodernism and is inspired by work from scholars like Marina MacKay, Lyndsey Stonebridge, and Beryl Pong to claim and define mid-century literature. By rethinking the bounds of modernism, “Reimagining the Radical” also seeks to fill the gaps in feminist history—between the suffragism of the early 20th century and the liberation efforts of the 1960s. I argue that these writers use genre experimentation to: reflect on complicated national political alliances; propagate their ideas about wartime violence; disrupt heteronormative expectations of gender and sexuality; and expose the global racial inequalities inherent in the imperialist agendas of war. Each chapter of Reimagining the Radical considers how these writers employ a different feminist, anti-fascist rhetorical strategy in their writing. The first chapter begins with a discussion of Gellhorn’s Munich crisis novel, A Stricken Field, in which Gellhorn develops a self-critical style that is self-aware of the shared limitations of both writing and political allyship. The second chapter explores Bowen’s personal and political contemplations of queer inheritance, asserting that, within the temporal and spatial disruptions of war, Bowen embeds her wartime works with small, indeterminate moments that supplant normative patriarchal narratives with queer, feminist connections. In the third chapter, I argue that Buck’s network of writing and activism forms a violent education that purposefully mediates between leftist and liberal politics and repurposes popular forms of writing in order to reach the common denominator of American reader. The final chapter focuses on West’s development of a visible process, a uniquely feminist approach to interpretation and meaning-making that embraces contradiction. Overall “Reimagining the Radical” is motivated by a spirit of reclamation—of women writers left out of discussions of war, of popular literature underappreciated by modernist studies, and the resulting feminist and queer political imaginings in both arenas that are easily overlooked.



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