Inhabiting the Margins: Personal spaces as the negotiation zones of marginalized subjects


  • Xinzhu Chen Peking University



queer studies, 20th century literature, feminist studies


In this essay, I investigate the role and underlying political connotations of personal space in Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin and A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, both of which enunciate marginalized subjectivity in 20th century English-language literature. I concentrate on using literary analysis while comparing the issues of marginalization, private and public resistance, class, race, and gender. While one text focuses on gayness in Paris and one focuses on queer womanhood in America, both reveal the temporal fragility of their respective marginalized spaces and the subjects’ claim to liberation. To situate this analysis in the wider literary and anthropological conversation, I read them against Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by Bell Hooks, and several other texts. My analysis argues that even seemingly quotidian actions are inscribed in a complex literary tradition that lies at the intersection of biopolitics, intersectional feminism, and queer heritage.


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References or Bibliography

Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2000.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Translated by Robert Hurley, Pantheon Books, 1978.

hooks, bell. Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. South End Press, 2000.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own: The Feminist Classic. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2015.

Reed, Christopher. “Imminent Domain: Queer Space in the Built Environment.” Art Journal, vol. 55, no. 4, 1996, pp. 64–70.

Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. NYU Press, 2009.

Stevenson, Christina. “‘Here Was One Room, There Another’: The Room, Authorship, and Feminine Desire in A Room of One’s Own and Mrs. Dalloway.” Pacific Coast Philology, vol. 49, no. 1, 2014, pp. 112–32.

Abur-Rahman, Aliyyah I. “‘Simply a Menaced Boy’: Analogizing Color, Undoing Dominance in James Baldwin’s ‘Giovanni’s Room.’” African American Review, vol. 41, no. 3, 2007, pp. 477–86.

Sheikh, Sheheryar B. “The Walls That Emancipate: Disambiguation of the ‘Room’ in A Room of One’s Own.” Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 42, no. 1, 2018, pp. 19–31.

Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. New York: Harvest/HBJ, 1983.



How to Cite

Chen, X. (2023). Inhabiting the Margins: Personal spaces as the negotiation zones of marginalized subjects. Journal of Student Research, 12(2).