Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Thomas Koenigs

Reader 2

Warren Liu

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© 2016 Blair E. Hedigan


This thesis analyzes the role of performativity within the domestic novel during antebellum America; specifically, the ways in which E.D.E.N. Southworth’s The Hidden Hand and Louisa May Alcott’s Behind a Mask subverted cultural and societal norms by exploring the performative nature of class and gender. Through their respective protagonists, the two authors sought to question the power dynamics of an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. By granting their protagonists agency through performance, Southworth and Alcott explored the ways in which women might alter existing power structures to reject the restrictions gender essentialism placed upon antebellum women, and to advocate for women’s rights, such as economic stability and class mobility.