Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 01/31/2021

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Emery, Mary Lou

Second Advisor

Boos, Florence

First Committee Member

Kruger, Marie

Second Committee Member

Buckley, Jennifer

Third Committee Member

Fox, Claire


This study examines the modernist fiction by three transnational women writers who turned to the ocean in their writing during the first half of the twentieth century to navigate their divided or hyphenated national identities. The Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), the Finland-Swedish author Hagar Olsson (1893-1978), and the New Zealand short story writer of English descent, Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), use ocean space in their fiction, in the form of both sea imagery and material seascape settings, to unsettle ideologically limiting and culturally anchored categories of identity, gender, class, place and time. The modernist aesthetics and marginal ethics of these white colonial women who existed at a slant to the geographical and cultural center of the British, masculine metropolis pivot on two competing ocean views. First, the sea features in their work as a historically compliant, smooth surface in the service of the establishment, enabling and justifying imperial expansion and colonial settlement, as well as defining and patrolling the uncompromising borders of the land-based modern nation state. Alternately, the ocean comes to disrupt progressive imperial models of history, to inspire fluid and transgressive ideologies, to bear witness to violent histories submerged by official records, and to confound our sense of scale and chronological time through outsized subterranean ecologies that blur the line between land and water, and, as a consequence, throw into question larger fundamental, ontological distinctions, such as that between the ‘human’ and the ‘non-human,’ or ‘more-than-human.’ By bringing postcolonial and ecocritical perspectives to bear on Bowen, Mansfield and Olsson’s literary representations of the ocean, my study contributes to the current expanding reach of modernist studies, ushering into the critical spotlight global regions previously overlooked and misfit writers traditionally dismissed, to locate that which modernity originally defined itself against at the vibrant heart of that construction.


ecocriticism, modernist studies, oceanic studies, postcolonial studies, transnational


viii, 208 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 192-208).


Copyright © 2018 Lisa Marie Jackson

Available for download on Sunday, January 31, 2021