Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2024

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Kimberly Alexander

Second Advisor

Janet Polasky

Third Advisor

Stephanie Harzewski


Living on the edge of the American empire, Celia Thaxter explored the dimensions of her life in ways that transcended, yet never fully abandoned traditional gender boundaries by cultivating her lifelong relationship with nature through creative expression. The lighthouse keeper's daughter constructed her identity based on the experiences that shaped her on the very edge of civilization. Coming of age on the Isles of Shoals, Celia reveled in flexibility and unrestricted freedom of her natural environment isolated from the cultural spheres on the mainland that reinforced the ideology of domestic femininity. This ideology was dominant in the 19th century in the sense that it was the most subscribed to convention governing the parameters of acceptable womanhood. While it was in fact pervasive, it's imperative to consider that women were not passive recipients of this ideology. Rather, they actively engaged with and negotiated these cultural norms according to their own circumstances and agency. Celia's life is a fascinating lens through which to explore how individual women navigated these gender dynamics within the broader context of their lives to subvert the ideology of domestic femininity. Celia's successful pursuit to establish her own literary voice amid the challenges of managing household affairs is an extraordinary achievement considering the tension between women's domestic responsibilities and creative expression. The relentless cycle of household chores and caregiving often left little time or energy for the sustained dedication and focus that writing often demands.Her creative pursuits were always grounded in her immense emotional bond with the Isles of Shoals, serving not merely as indulgences but as essential lifelines that sustained her spirit amidst the grudge of her daily responsibilities. By centering her writing on landscape, Celia gained a sense of power through the language she employed to speak about or on behalf of nature. She found ways to express herself authentically by striving to be in accord with the natural world. In doing so, Celia was able to nurture her lifelong relationship with nature through creative expression to explore the dimension of her life in ways that subverted gender norms.