Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Dr. Kevin Marti

Second Advisor

Dr. Earle Bryant

Third Advisor

Dr. Leslie White


This thesis proposes a new school of literary analysis: Kinky Criticism. This critical theory will examine the presence in literature of themes related to BDSM, an acronym referring to bondage/discipline, domination/submission, and sadism/masochism. My purpose in examining this power exchange and sadomasochism in literature is threefold. Firstly, I aim to reveal the presence of kinky themes in not only a range of literary works, but also leave the reader aware of kink present in everyday human interactions. Secondly, through this application to literature, Kinky Criticism sheds new light on the techniques of characterization and adds complexity to the dynamics between characters. Finally, Kinky Criticism provides a new perspective that leads to unexpected conclusions about hotly debated topics in literature, such as the infamous sodomites of Dante’s Inferno. Although a few scholars have commented on kinky themes, their analyses have not yet gained the coherence of a critical movement. This thesis aims to outline the tenets of Kinky Criticism and to establish not only its legitimacy as a critical lens, but also Kinky Criticism’s unique contributions to the interpretation of three major literary works: Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, and D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love.


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