Languages and Literature, University of Birmingham
Bathroom spaces are highly ubiquitous, yet largely forgotten, and often unspoken spaces around which women’s lives are organised. Because of their prevalence in the daily lives of women across the social strata (albeit in varying levels of accessibility, luxury, cleanliness and comfort), bathroom spaces provide a useful lens through which to explore the key material and social issues that plagued them: the conflict between women’s public and private selves; the discord between a dominant ideology of a potentially limiting and claustrophobic domestic role and women’s burgeoning social, economic and sexual independence; and the struggle to craft a sense of home, homeliness or belonging as a marginalised individual.
By examining the ways in which some early twentieth-century writers use literary bathroom spaces to think through the ambivalent social, economic and sexual position of women at this time, I consider how women constructed, fictionalised and understood new and alternative identities, and how the bathroom becomes an alternative space in the city and the home for the exploration and formation of these selves. In addition, I show how the dominant ideologies of gender, class and sexuality built into the very walls of these modern bathroom spaces inflect their imaginative representations with historically specific narratives about women’s everyday lives.