Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

J. Alexander Ogden


By its very nature, fantasy seeks to estrange its protagonist and readers from reality, leading to the exploration of topics that would generally be left isolated or unchallenged. Fantasy allows a character to step outside of reality in order to examine the conditions of their existence, to question their own position in society, and to reflect upon the ideologies that determine their social positioning. Analyzing Olga Grushin’s Forty Rooms (2016), this thesis examines the ways in which the female narrator turns to fantasy, more specifically, dreamed conversations and visions of multiplied selves, in an attempt to overcome the powerlessness of her position as a woman in society.

In this novel, a nameless narrator transitions from poet to jaded housewife, assuming the identity of Mrs. Caldwell. Following her life from childhood to death and beyond, Grushin outlines the life of a woman through the eponymous rooms that she inhabits throughout her life, creating a stifling atmosphere that mirrors her circumstances. Throughout this journey is a mix of the everyday—student life, motherhood, domesticity—and the fantastic—conversations with Apollo, mirrored selves acting independently of the narrator, and parallel realities. Drawing upon theorists such as Nancy Walker and Rosemary Jackson, I propose that the mixture of these elements allows the narrator, and, by proximity, the readers, to examine not only the question of artistry as it relates to a woman’s connection to motherhood, but also the isolation and imprisonment created from an inability to escape gendered expectations.


© 2023, Grace Marie Alger