Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Marilyn Reizbaum

Second Advisor

David Collings

Third Advisor

Emma Maggie Solberg


This project explores the convergence of futurity and ethics through an examination of key figures in modernist literature. It studies works by Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, and James Joyce in order to conceptualize an encounter with the future which goes beyond a traditionally linear and teleological model of time, setting out to reimagine the role of both temporality and ethics in novels including Orlando, Mrs. Dalloway, In Search of Lost Time, and Ulysses. Key facets of this exploration, which is metaphorized and guided by the image of a window, include temporal otherness, transgression and fracturing of the self (primarily understood through the paradoxical experience of dying), and the arrival of the future into the present. Major theoretical influences include queer theory, poststructuralism, and anti-dialectics. Ultimately, the project makes the case that it is possible to construct a modernist ethics which embraces the messianic potential of absences, blanks, and blind spots, a proposition made possible by our encounter with an incomprehensible yet imminent fragment of the future out of place in the present. At the close, it suggests an ethical imperative towards “affirmative negation”—a messianic, annunciatory, affirmation of that which is missing or omitted.