Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



First Advisor

Stephen Barber


Situated in recent scholarship on interiors and architecture in modernist fiction, "Doorways to Being" explores ways in which the modernist novel proposes a phenomenological engagement with the material environment, specifically the body in relation to transitional architectures. The study of thresholds in select modern fiction seeks to answer the essential question of how and why we move in the constructed world from the perspective of phenomenology and cultural studies. This comparative and interdisciplinary dissertation demonstrates how modernist fiction reestablishes the primacy of the sensed physical world in the spirit of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The introduction theorizes the threshold or doorway as thing, object, and contributor to the ideologies of architectural systemacity. The following three chapters respectively study William Faulkner’s enveloping thresholds in Sanctuary, ecstatic thresholds in Virginia Woolf's Between the Acts, and elevators and the mechanized body in Franz Kafka's Amerika. The fourth and final chapter compares select works by James Joyce and Colm Tóibín, examining the impact of postmodern aesthetics on contemporary architectural narration and national identity. The conclusion extends the phenomenology of architecture in fiction to the realm of modernist cinema, illustrating concepts and techniques of phenomenological film extrapolated from the writings of Walter Benjamin and Merleau-Ponty.

Available for download on Saturday, August 24, 2024