Award Date

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Beth C. Rosenberg

Second Committee Member

Timothy Erwin

Third Committee Member

Megan Becker-Leckrone

Fourth Committee Member

Danielle Roth-Johnson

Number of Pages



This study examines the embodied aesthetic language developed by Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Audre Lorde to articulate alternative feminine spaces and experiences, revealing the central role the body plays in generating subjectivity and resisting hegemonic norms. Metaphors and visual language are essential tools for mediating female experience as they emphasize the internal experiences of the body over the external to avoid objectification and recasting woman in the role of the body and thus succeed in imparting a sense of what it is like to be a woman. Somatic imagination, which operates within embodied cognition triggers physical reactions comparable to going through the actual physical experience. These experiences can be embedded in written language which means that transformation expressed by the writer are experienced by the reader as well. Using an interdisciplinary matrix of embodied cognition and the nineteenth-century concept of the aesthetic moment, I examine the visuals and metaphors that have been adapted by these women writers to express feminine experiences, sexuality, and race. Chapter one looks at Woolf’s use of aesthetic moments in A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse to portray feminine internal cognitive process while taking into account the false universal of the white female body in her work. Chapter two examines Barnes’s portrayal of embodied cognition of marginalized female subjects in her chapbook The Book of Repulsive Women, her novel Ryder, and her novel Nightwood, in which she conveys communication through movement, dynamic “imagetexts,” and human-animal combinations. Chapter three looks at Lorde's poetic philosophy emerging from her biomythography, Zami, A New Spelling of My Name, The Cancer Journals, and select works of poetry and how the mechanics of embodied cognition operate in her representation of her black, lesbian, and feminine experiences.


aesthetic expression of race; aesthetic moment; embodied cognition; feminine aesthetics; somatic imagination


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Gender and Sexuality | Women's Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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