Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Douglas Lanier

Second Advisor

Brigitte Bailey

Third Advisor

Dennis Britton


This dissertation examines how early nineteenth-century female novelists developed a new mode of adapting Shakespeare, what I am calling “domestic Shakespeares,” that cite, reference, and rearrange plays based on women’s experiences in and of the home. I focus on popular women authors whose novels appeared between 1827 and 1862, a time when identity was especially apparent in the geographical formation of the United States. These women novelists used allusions to and adaptations of Shakespeare in their works to express their frustrations with conventional paradigms of womanhood and related disciplinary systems, such as coverture, that limited women’s citizenship. “Domestic Shakespeares,” I argue, becomes a means by which women writers could negotiate womanhood through seemingly contradictory approaches and engage with questions of citizenship on both the local and national levels. Appropriating Shakespearean authority for their own ends, these novelists often expand paradigms of gender, revealing a history of trans identity within early American women’s writing. These women authors, recognizing how politics of the domestic sphere refracted national issues, used what they saw as Shakespeare’s commentary on women’s lives to influence American notions of identity and space. This project seeks to deepen our understanding of women’s revisionary views of Shakespeare in early America and women’s literary contributions to the formation of American gender identities, notably including a recognizable transness that runs counter to current anti-trans rhetoric that misrepresents transgendered identity as faddish.