Date on Honors Thesis

Fall 12-2022


Secondary English Education

Examining Committee Member

Andrew Black, PhD, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Danielle Nielsen, PhD, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Jeff Osborne, PhD, Committee Member


This project will explore the emergence of “heroinism,” a uniquely feminine way in which early female authors approached the heroine’s journey. Barred by male expectations of female conduct both in society and literature, eighteenth and nineteenth century women daring to “attempt the pen” forged stories of heroines with conventions and tropes distinctly, though not entirely, separate from those told of centuries of heroes. I intend to track the ways in which these early tales of heroines told by women strayed from the traditional heroic plot, with unique motivations, mentors, trials, and rewards, but also how they were shaped and confined by the male literary ideal. Most notably, I will explore the narrative of refinement, the ways in which the male characters both refine and reward the heroine with marriage. I will consistently use this parallel between heroine and author to argue that “heroinism” emerged and evolved in ways consistent with the experience of the female author, and it was used to assert female authority in their own identity formation. I intend to construct this analysis chronologically, beginning with Charlotte Lennox’s 1752 novel The Female Quixote, exploring Frances Burney’s Evelina and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and ending with Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel Jane Eyre, whose heroine in many ways obeys the early conventions of “heroinism” but eventually demonstrates how vastly writing about women has changed in a single century.