Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




James Armstrong

Committee Members

Thomas Payne

Leslie Cochrane


This research investigates the use of personal gender and sexuality references in Ethel Smyth’s composition The Prison. Smyth’s last major work, The Prison (1929-1930), is a choral symphony that follows a dialogue between a Prisoner and his Soul as the Prisoner works to understand his own mortality and accept death. This study explores the question: How does Ethel Smyth use intertextuality, the subversion of expectations, and the idea of the “bonds of self” in The Prison to position the work within her gender and sexuality experiences? A focus is placed on the sociolinguistic notions of identity and desire, seeking to discover how the combination of homosexuality and female gender influence the work. Through this research and analysis, I hope to demonstrate that The Prison culminated and responded to a range of Ethel Smyth’s experiences with gender and sexuality, including elements of discrimination and activism. Smyth uses intertextuality, the subversion of expectations, and the “bonds of self” to depict lesbian desire and her identity as a female composer in The Prison.