Date of Defense



Gender and Women's Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Hubert

Second Advisor

Dr. Gwen Raaberg

Third Advisor

Dr. Gail Landberg


At the turn of the twenty-first century, we have already glimpsed a number of new developments in cultural criticism, not the least of which is the appearance of "postfeminism," the "spectre of feminism"1 signifying the period of time, a school of thought, and a body of work after the fall of the second wave of feminism. At first glance, postfeminism offers both a new critical position and a new addition to our popular mythology, an addition I have termed the "postfeminist persona." As both a critical position and a popular persona, postfeminism manifests itself in widely varying ways. With neither a precisely defined point of origin, nor a concrete critical analysis, postfeminism wears as many masks as it has wearers. Part of the purpose of this paper is to trace postfeminism's origins and delineate its characteristics, so that we may better evaluate postfeminism's contributions to feminist theory and cultural criticism, and emancipatory potential for women. I begin by defining the major conventions that shape the postfeminist theoretical standpoint and postfeminist persona, and go on to demonstrate the prevalence of these conventions in the work of two self-described feminists, Naomi Wolf and Camille Paglia. Last, I will examine works from the next generation of writers and critics, only some of whom describe themselves as postfeminist.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only