Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Committee Chair

Griner, Paul

Committee Member

Clukey, Amy

Committee Member

Noles, Nicholaus

Author's Keywords

feminism; giantess; women of size; patriarchy; literature; British Isles


This thesis will analyze examples of women of size in the literature of the British Isles throughout history, focusing predominantly upon the Early Modern Period, and will create a fiction piece in response to such attitudes. I argue that one of the most clear ways to dissect contemporary cultural attitudes about powerful women and women who occupy more space than men is to examine giantesses and other examples of women of size within this period of literature. From this, a novel excerpt will be written from the perspective of a time-traveling woman of size who engages with these texts and their themes, and will throughout the course of the novel learn to control her temporal position as she becomes more self-loving and confident, regardless of the control and self-denial imposed by patriarchal rule.

Lay Summary

Women of size have been featured across the literary traditions of Europe and European-settled civilizations for centuries. The Brobdingnagian giantesses of Gulliver’s Travels, for example, are as old as the 18th century, and portrayals of monstrous women stretch back much further. What remains true throughout the fruits of these traditions is that they are the products of largely-patriarchal cultures, and therefore, studying different portrayals of each text’s giantesses can elucidate a reader about each culture’s respective gender norms. For my thesis, I will examine depictions of women of size in British literature throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and apply the insight learned to create my own responsive piece of fiction. I hope for this to be a critique of the sentiments displayed throughout Anglo-American literary histories while simultaneously presenting feminist examination of these traditions’ contents. In this way, I will explore these historical depictions of women of size through more recent feminist understandings of patriarchal societies, such as how female-bodied people are expected to occupy less space than male-bodied people, the way that bodily expectations are used to control female-bodied people and promote self-denial, and the civilizational sexualization and sexual denial which many female-bodied people experience.