Strange things: Hemingway, Woolf, and the fetish

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Susan Edmunds


Gender, Fetish, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Literature in English, North America


This dissertation analyzes Woolf's and Hemingway's separate inquiries into gender in their fiction, and their shared fate as fetishized and normativizing icons of gender, concluding that their roles as icons of gender undermine the challenges to normative gender posed by their fictions. In this double function Woolf and Hemingway expose the means by which capitalism reappropriates desires that resist cultural norms. Chapter One outlines the connections between erotic and commodity fetishism. Chapter Two analyzes how Hemingway's The Garden of Eden uses a racialized erotic fetishism to disjoint phallic gender identification where gender is determined by having, or not having, the phallus. Chapter Three argues that in Woolf's Orlando the fetish is the mark of an encounter with an exotic other that liberates gender and sexuality from their binary structures. In Chapter Four, the fetish returns to both writers as they themselves become gendered commodities, privileged representatives of traditional gender materialized into fetishized objects. The fifth and final tests this model of fetishism in the classroom, analyzing the outcomes of two classes which were structured around the theories and texts of this dissertation. Drawing on biographical, textual, and cultural manifestations of fetishism this dissertation argues that Hemingway and Woolf represent both the potential, and also the limitations, of perverse desire as a means of contesting norms of gender and sexuality.


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