Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



This thesis explores the topics of gender and sexuality within Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando by analyzing the texts through the lens of early twentieth-century sexologists and twentieth and twenty first century gender theorists. Both works reveal a common critique of the heteronormativity present within early twentieth-century understandings of sexuality and propose alternative spheres of sexuality and gender identity. Stein creates an alternative sphere in which desire is expanded. Beginning with an exploration of consumerist desire, Stein ultimately reveals a utopian vision of lesbian sexuality and the foregrounding of female desire, sexuality, and pleasure. Woolf’s alternative consists of world that foregrounds women’s intellect rather than their physicality, and reveals gender – the assumed basis of sexuality – as a socially constructed concept. Using Stein’s initial assertion of alternative sexualities and rejection of heteronormativity, Woolf creates her narrative to make radical assertions about gender and gender performance.

Level of Honors

magna cum laude




Faith Barrett