Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in English, Literature



Major Advisor

Steven Olsen-Smith, Ph.D.


Tara Penry, Ph.D.


Jacqueline O’Connor, Ph.D.


Margaret Fuller’s work is typically known for its influence on the American feminist movement between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century fostered a new way of looking at men and women as dual souls encompassing both male and female traits. While scholars recognize and draw attention to Margaret Fuller’s mental and physical illness, few scholars directly analyze her works through the lens of her illness. My thesis analyzes her writing by considering her illness (both physical and mental) in order to understand how it affected her writing. Scholars such as Jeffrey Steele, Cynthia Davis, Rachel Blumenthal, and Deborah Manson provided invaluable analysis of Fuller’s writing by considering her illness and the treatment of it through mesmerism. In my study, I analyze Fuller’s rhetorical choice of specific words relating to sadness, the mind, and the body. I conclude that Fuller’s revisions to “The Great Lawsuit,” which became the expanded Woman in the Nineteenth Century, depict a more dismal view of the lot of woman due to the higher frequency of melancholic/negative words. Using a more theoretical approach, I also analyze Fuller’s short, unfinished work “Autobiographical Romance” through Sigmund Freud’s theory of trauma and repetition, Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage, and Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject. I argue that she encountered the “Real” in remembering the corpse of her sister and repeating her childhood trauma through the act of writing. The combination of a historical/biographical analysis, a close-reading rhetorical analysis, and theoretical analysis results in a well-rounded study of Fuller’s life, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, and “Autobiographical Romance.”