“The Third Sex”: Nineteenth-Century Women Physicians in Queer, Liminal Literary Spaces

  • Margaret Jay Jessee


This chapter analyzes the way nineteenth-century novels characterize women physicians who inhabit what the author calls a queer literary space. Nineteenth-century American women physicians represent a queer, transgressive, and liminal space between the physical and ideological female-inhabited domestic space and the male-dominated professional space. The author analyzes novels by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Annie Nathan Meyers, arguing that they struggle to contain their women physician characters generically just as dominant gender categories struggled to contain women physicians’ transgression. Novels of realism create liminal spaces that the women physician characters must sacrifice to escape. The characters are liminal generically as they often become either sentimentally sacrificial or unrealistically not quite human. Thus the novels of realism manage to depict generically the very struggle they represent thematically.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Jay Jessee
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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