Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ronald Emerick, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Karen Dandurand, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lingyan Yang, Ph.D.


Gail Godwin‘s novels emphasize the forging of the female self/identity. Even Godwin‘s earliest critics stress the ways Godwin consistently chooses to portray female protagonists as complex female characters; as Godwin‘s critics point out, the crafting of female identity becomes central to the analysis and understanding of Godwin‘s ―vision‖ of/for female identity. My analysis of Godwin‘s work extends from and beyond the groundwork laid by earlier critics. I contend that, even as Godwin‘s earliest novels emphasize the forging of female identity, her earliest novels highlight their heroines as ―objects,‖ that is, their identities are fashioned by ―outer‖ qualities—the female body. For instance, Godwin‘s two earliest novels, The Perfectionists (1970) and Glass People (1972), both emphasize the female body and how the body is objectified by both ―the self‖ and the ―othering gaze.‖ A ―shift‖ in location of female identity takes shape in Godwin‘s The Odd Woman (1974), A Mother and Two Daughters (1982), and A Southern Family (1987); here female identity is associated with an emphasis on creativity, education, career, and the ―female mind.‖ With Godwin‘s later novels, The Good Husband (1994), and Father Melancholy’s Daughter (1991) and its sequel Evensong (1999), we see another shift—the focus changes from an emphasis on female identity forged through ―female body‖ and/or ―female mind‖ to a focus on the strong spiritual characteristics/aspects of female identity, the soul. By examining the shifts in Godwin‘s writing, we see a progression in her writing, a maturing voice, as well as an emphasis on female spirituality, a female identity that embraces Godwin‘s vision of ―wholeness.‖ This ―wholeness,‖ conceived early in Godwin‘s novels, remains unrealized until later work, thus revealing the complexity of Godwin‘s vision of/for female identity. A study of the interconnectedness of body, mind, soul and female identity in Gail Godwin‘s novels reemphasizes the complexity of Godwin‘s work. An examination of the female identity in terms of the ―trinity of consciousness‖ unifies Godwin‘s vision, revealing a progression in her work, emphasizing her roots in Southern Appalachian Literature, tying her work to Feminist Theory, while reflecting the richness of her female protagonists who embrace body, mind, and soul.