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Goliadze, Nato (11. March 2022): Modernist Aesthetics: Sexual Ethics, Gender Relations, and Respective Moments of Epiphany. Master Thesis, Faculty of Languages and Literatures, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. [PDF, 486kB]


Reconsidering the significance of the enigmatic literary category of epiphany to modernist fiction, this thesis investigates and identifies its interdependence with the topics of sexual ethics and gender relations within the corpus of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Ulysses (1922), and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927). Therefore, this research aims to analyse the ‘blurred’ concept of epiphany as an epicentre of modernist aesthetics and to establish the moments of sublime insights as a constitutive element in achieving ‘truths’ about the particularly acute issues within contemporary society. I argue that, in these novels, all the instances of epiphanies represent a medium for expressing the protagonists’ transcendental/metaphysical experiences that provide a new sense of awareness of human sexuality and re-evaluate the established relationships between sexes. For this purpose, I investigate and contrast the ecstatic moments experienced by the female and male protagonists and examine to what extent James Joyce and Virginia Woolf incorporate epiphanic moments in their narrative. Additionally, I explore if it is a particularly plausible model in breaking the traditional gender roles. By doing so, I detect that the primary purpose of an epiphany is to unmask, go beyond the basic patterns and discover a new and systematic understanding of already established phenomena. I will use a qualitative research methodology for the thematic and content analysis and engage with it through gender and narrative theory. Ultimately, this paper endeavours to prove that the aspects of gender and sexuality represented by the cognitive phenomena of epiphany show the ambitious project of Modernism as a critique of what has been marginalised by the mainstream.

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