Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Kim, Jongwoo

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Hufbauer, Banjamin

Committee Member

Hufbauer, Banjamin

Committee Member

Greene, John

Committee Member

Facos, Michelle


Since the 1970s, feminist art historians have extensively treated Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot. In particular, focusing on class-bound womanhood and domesticity, Griselda Pollock, Linda Nochlin, and Anne Higonnet have provided compelling psychoanalytic, Marxist, and semiotic analyses, seemingly exhausting all potentials for any further historical exploration of these artists. Yet, to date, investigations into the significance of the queer (deviations from normative sociocultural codes of gender identity, sexuality, and reproduction) in the works of Cassatt and Morisot have not been conducted. In this dissertation, queer theory complements the existing scholarship that has focused on the significance of women as mothers in the oeuvres of both artists. Late nineteenth-century norms concerning masculinity, childhood innocence, and normalization were determined by rigid classificatory boundaries that ensured the existence of binary oppositions (masculine/feminine, child/adult/, human/animal, etc.) and rendered any evidence of nuance as suspect. Using primarily queer and psychoanalytic theories, this dissertation reveals the paradoxes in late nineteenth-century French and American culture that govern normativity and the strangeness with which established norms imbue behavior that comes “naturally” to the portrayed men and children. This dissertation is divided into four chapters covering queer patriarchy, childhood innocence, and normalization. Each chapter discusses the problematic nature of established dichotomies to uncover the constructedness of normativity and queerness. Chapter One examines how Cassatt and Morisot depicted the dynamics of fathers and family life amid a “crisis” of masculinity triggered by the aftermath of war, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and the physical and psychological ramifications of the competitive corporate atmosphere. Chapter Two reveals childhood innocence as a contradiction to heteronormative expectations and explores the significance of animals and childhood sexuality in the dynamics of both constructs. Chapter Three looks at the normalization of children in terms of pedagogy, resistance to normalization, and suppression of the inner animal. Chapter Four illuminates the hidden queerness in depictions of normative play and the significance of “gender-inappropriate” playtime activities.