Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Rivka Swenson


“Liminal Spaces and The Disabled Body” explores Edmund Burke’s aesthetic paradigms as established in his An Enquiry into the Origin of Our Notions of the Sublime and the Beautiful to recover what disability meant for an eighteenth-century audience. I examine Burney’s Camilla and Eugenia’s disability as well as Dacre’s Zofloya and Victoria’s figurative hermaphroditism in terms of eighteenth-century views of deformity and physiognomy to argue that both Eugenia’s and Victoria’s deformities—Eugenia’s smallpox scars and injured leg and Victoria’s beautiful but too boldly delineated features—challenge the prevailing structures of aesthetics and expectations of feminine beauty. My thesis questions how eighteenth-century aesthetic theory constructs the modern concept of the “disabled” individual to argue that the female body with a disability or deformity surpasses the terms of submission and diminution instated by Burkean aesthetics. In turn, the disabled female gains purchase in literature due to her “liminal, between-categories status” as it strains masculine power structures and aesthetic and gender classification systems.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013

Available for download on Tuesday, May 11, 2213