Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

English and American Literature


English (en)

Date of Award

Winter 1-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Robert Milder


In Outcasts of the Universe, I argue that shyness is a modern dilemma, problematized by the broader shifts in American society: the expanding marketplace, the idealization of the self-made man, the rise of feminism and ever-changing gender roles, and a slow consolidation of the bachelor, the artist, and the aesthete into the stigmatized figure of the homosexual. By drawing on both the lives and works of Hawthorne and James, I theorize shyness as an alternative model of social and sexual engagement in the nineteenth century.

In particular, I adapt the queer theory concept of closetedness, a concept that has no equivalent in heterosexual terms--unless it is shyness itself. In doing so, I contribute new insights to the fields of gender studies and to queer theory, both by expanding theories of the closet to heterosexual narratives and by exploring how closetedness might be psychologically overdetermined by shyness, melancholy, and introversion.


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