Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Rusty Barrett


While some scholars have viewed the Sexual Revolution as a “war” with winners and losers, this project finds that all Americans were subject to the fantasy of liberation. This fantasy takes different forms during the era, including relaxed sexual strictures against pre-marital sex, the availability of birth control, and an increased focus on sexual pleasure. However, the seemingly liberatory quickly becomes conservative, coming into focus through the analysis of court cases and legal mandates that protected the declining structures of marriage and heteronormativity. Beginning with widespread fears about interracial mixing in the early 1950’s, escalated by the end of segregation by Brown v. BOE and ending with the availability of divorce on a nation-wide level in 1972, this project is concerned with the literary imagination and the radical cultural and political changes affecting sexuality. This dissertation places literature and film in conversation with major legal cases to show how fictional texts make evident the legal cases’ potentialities, including their gains and their failures, focusing on cultural paradigms in literature and film concerning interracial couples, homosexuality, non-monogamous marriage, and divorce. This dissertation finds that all Americans simultaneously benefited and suffered from cultural and political changes regarding sexuality during the Sexual Revolution.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)