Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English



First Advisor

Mary Cappello


The term "invalid," in its usage as a label for women who occupy the space of the "sick" bed, functions to reify socio-political apparatuses which inscribe pain onto the female body, diminish the value of the feminine, and reproduce oppression vis-a-vis gender. This thesis critiques languages and ideologies used by doctors and editors/ critics, as well as those used by nineteenth-century diarists Alice James and Achsa Sprague. This project examines the plurality of voices reflecting and projecting discourses that are now in conflict, now at plateau. Specifically, this thesis studies strategies used by James and Sprague to reclaim voice through inverting and/or contesting nineteenth-century socio-political languages depicting medical, religious, political, and domestic ideologies. Central to this project is an awareness of factors which inform the "sick" bed as a non-neutral space of economic production and exchange. Because Sprague and James both resisted the domestic roles of wife and mother, and because both endured prolonged confinements to the "sick" bed, their diaries are especially important documents for studying language, gender, and productivity in nineteenth-century American culture. This thesis participates in the ongoing efforts to re-validate discourses by women which have previously been "invalidated" by master narrators and narratives.



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