Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Victorian Literature Gender
by
Pamela K. Gilbert

Introduction

The Victorian period is one of the literary fields in which gender scholarship advanced earliest and most fully. The most significant work started in the 1970s and is due not only to the historical turn in Victorian scholarship but also to the volume of women’s writing in the period. Subsequently, most scholarly work has incorporated to some extent some attention to gender perforce, and the bibliography is thus potentially vast. This entry is designed to attend to material that focuses primarily on gender (rather than having gender simply as one of many foci) and to a range of texts and issues (rather than focusing on a single author) that were important to the development of the scholarly conversation on gender. It also includes entries for works exemplary of recent approaches. The early days of gender studies, then often defined as “women’s studies,” focused primarily on middle-class white women in England and on the oppressive nature of the feminine ideal. Later work focused on a gender-studies paradigm that called into question the category “woman” as an absolute or unifying focus. Recent works incorporate a more nuanced analysis of class, give due attention to masculinity and queer histories, and discuss ideas of empire.

Early Works

Significant work related to the current discussion of gender and Victorian literature began in the 1970s, emerging from the women’s movement and civil rights–era discussions becoming a force within academia. At this stage, these critics were still often seen as outsiders in an academy beginning to grapple with issues of canonicity and literary value. This work focused primarily on women and was born out of feminist interests. Thus, it tended to privilege the history of feminist activism and consciousness and attempted to recover a forgotten literary history of women’s writing. Moers 1976 and Showalter 1977 traced such a literary history and between them built a bibliography that has been mined by many scholars since. The early work in this area also focused largely on reading women writers’ resistance to patriarchy and on the representation of female characters. Gilbert and Gubar 1979 stands as a foundational discussion of the influence of a disabling myth of the masculinity of authorship on the works of 19th-century women.

  • Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Foundational and influential study of female novelists and poets, including Austen, Shelley, the Brontës, Eliot, and Dickinson. The eponymous “madwoman” is Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre, but this term also stands for the woman writer, who is made “other” in the very act of writing, as that act is conceived as male ejaculation.

    Find this resource:

  • Moers, Ellen. Literary Women. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a history of women in the light of common literary influences and gender expectations for British, American, and French women writers from the 18th century to the present. One of the first volumes to examine women authors as a separate group whose unique situations had a direct impact on shaping literature.

    Find this resource:

  • Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Classic feminist study of British women novelists that provides a comprehensive bibliography of both major and more obscure women authors. Showalter divides the authors into the following categories: feminine (1840–1880; accepting male values), feminist (1880–1920; protesting male values), and female (1920 to present; finding an authentic female voice) These divisions have largely been discarded since the book’s publication but were an important foundational paradigm providing a platform for revision and critique.

    Find this resource:

Major Criticism

Gender-studies scholarship in the 1980s continued to build on the work of the previous decade but also began to question the binary terms of the debate, to discern the agency that women did exercise in the period, and to grapple with issues of gendered language: for example, did women write differently than men in a basic linguistic sense, as some critics influenced by French feminism thought? This is a period rife with major statements that defined the field as we now understand it. Auerbach 1982 takes up the question of representations of female power in the period. Abel 1982 is a landmark collection on the question of women’s writing and differences within the category. Poovey 1984 looks at women writers’ language stylistically but reads that specificity through ideological terms rather than essential physical ones. Spivak 1985 critiques Gilbert and Gubar’s foundational reading of Jane Eyre (Gilbert and Gubar 1979, cited under Early Works) from a postcolonial perspective, prompting a paradigm shift in the feminist perspective. Armstrong 1987 and Poovey 1988 are the most significant works of the period, aside from Spivak’s essay. Armstrong identified the history of the domestic woman with the history of the novel, in an analysis that offered literature a historical role in constructing modernity. Poovey likewise critiqued gender as an ideological construction with a large historical force throughout the era.

  • Abel, Elizabeth, ed. Writing and Sexual Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This collection, originally published the previous year as a special issue of the journal Critical Inquiry, contains several foundational essays on Victorian gender. The collection set out to depart from an essentializing emphasis on similarity among women and to focus instead on difference within femininity. Essentially deconstructionist, the collection is now somewhat dated, but in its moment provided an important challenge to fairly uncritical celebrations of a shared womanhood or femininity.

    Find this resource:

  • Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Armstrong’s influential book is both foundational and still relevant reading. Arguing that novels shaped historical understanding rather than simply reflecting it, the book shows how the modern individual was based on emerging feminized notions of privacy and domesticity.

    Find this resource:

  • Auerbach, Nina. Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Foundational study of myths of Victorian womanhood. Draws from a variety of sources, both literary and otherwise. Provides an important early revision of the idea of the pervasively passive Victorian angel through three themes: the angel/demon, the old maid, and the fallen woman.

    Find this resource:

  • Poovey, Mary. The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a powerful reading of these three women writers in the early 19th century in their attempts to work within or resist the emerging notion of “proper” ladyhood.

    Find this resource:

  • Poovey, Mary. Uneven Developments the Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the influence of gender on broader ideological development, showing how gender was historically formed as an unstable binary structure, which allowed for the emergence of a feminist movement in the mid-19th century. Works through various exemplary conflicts, such as divorce law, the use of chloroform in childbirth, the status of women authors and governesses, and the profession of nursing. A good early example of how the now-commonplace understanding of gender as socially constructed was first articulated and defended.

    Find this resource:

  • Spivak, Gayatri C. “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism.” Critical Inquiry 12 (1985): 243–261.

    DOI: 10.1086/448328Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This response to Gilbert and Gubar’s famous reading of Bertha as Jane Eyre’s dark double (Gilbert and Gubar 1979, cited under Early Works), had an electrifying effect. Spivak’s reading admonished feminists that the tendency to read the colonial woman as signifying only in relation to the white woman repeated some of the colonial moves of early feminism itself. Essential reading.

    Find this resource:

The Body and Medicine

Beginning in the 1980s, feminists turned to the history of the gendered body. Partly influenced by Foucault’s histories of medicine and psychology and also by the poststructural emphasis on different textual domains as continuous discursive fields, these texts focused both on literary and nonliterary texts and on history and representation together. Michie 1993 moves away from the category of the woman’s body to that of the feminized body, including analysis of the racial other, focusing on that body’s exclusion from exercising agency. Showalter 1995 offers a foundational discussion of the pathologization of women’s bodies and minds, whereas Michie 1987 focuses on the range of female bodies in literature. Vrettos 1995 continues this focus, examining representations of illness specifically. Fasick 1997 responds to Michie 1987 with discussions of the nonascetic female body, whereas Silver 2002 builds on Michie 1987 to consider the anorexic. Bashford 1998 shifts focus to female medical professionals and their relations to these sometimes disabling (and sometimes enabling) representations. Smith 2004 offers an example of the development of this discussion in relation to masculinity.

  • Bashford, Alison. Purity and Pollution: Gender, Embodiment and Victorian Medicine. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines gender and the development of medical professionalism through the history of nursing and the rise of the woman doctor. It also contains good material on the sexualized figure of the nurse and on the Victorian understanding of women’s sexual difference as enabling (and sometimes disabling) women’s professional progress in the field of medicine.

    Find this resource:

  • Fasick, Laura. Vessels of Meaning: Women’s Bodies, Gender Norms, and Class Bias from Richardson to Lawrence. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In its reading of Victorian fictional women as providers, consumers, and withholders of nourishment, this volume contends with prior claims, such as those in Michie 1987, that the middle-class female body was figured primarily as ascetic.

    Find this resource:

  • Michie, Helena. The Flesh Made Word: Female Figures and Women’s Bodies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses portrayals of women’s bodies—especially self-denying and ascetically disciplined ones—in the 19th and 20th centuries. Has a strong feminist theoretical base. Exemplary of the best work being done at the time and in this tradition, but also has lasting value. Includes several novelists but also draws upon the visual arts and other cultural sources.

    Find this resource:

  • Michie, Elsie. Outside the Pale: Cultural Exclusion, Gender Difference and the Victorian Woman Writer. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reads mid-Victorian novels in the light of the exclusion of femininity from cultural agency, with attention to race and the pathologized body (especially the Irish, the menstruating woman, and the fallen woman) in 1818–1870.

    Find this resource:

  • Showalter, Elaine. The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830–1980. New York: Pantheon, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses hysteria, or the “female malady,” and its evolution into modern notions of depression. Links cultural norms for femininity in the Victorian period with the medical history of treatment for female madness and hysteria. Foundational work on gender and the history of medicine/psychology.

    Find this resource:

  • Silver, Anna Krugovoy. Victorian Literature and the Anorexic Body. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores hunger and appetite as well as the fat and thin body in constructions of femininity. Focuses especially on anorexia nervosa, first diagnosed in 1873. Discusses Charlotte Brontë, Christina Rossetti, Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker, and Lewis Carroll.

    Find this resource:

  • Smith, Andrew. Victorian Demons: Medicine, Masculinity, and the Gothic at the Fin-de-Siècle. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses constructions of pathologized masculinity in medical, cultural, and gothic literary texts, from Max Nordau’s Degeneration to coverage of Jack the Ripper.

    Find this resource:

  • Vrettos, Athena. Somatic Fictions: Imagining Illness in Victorian Culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the centrality of illness in Victorian culture, especially psychosomatic symptoms. Traces the concept of illness in the fiction of a variety of authors: Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Henry James, Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Meredith, Bram Stoker, and Henry Haggard. Vrettos explores the historical assumptions, patterns of perceptions, and structures of belief that invested sickness and health with cultural meaning. Good on femininity and the connections between spirituality, nervous afflictions, and hysteria.

    Find this resource:

Redefining the Canon

The work of the early 1970s only began the project of rediscovering women writers in order to redefine the canon—or question the need for any canon at all. Work continued in this area and gained strength through the canon wars’ critique of aesthetic criteria as reinforcing traditional class and gender biases. The field was not yet robust enough to encourage presses to publish many single-author books on these lesser-known authors. But the 1990s saw many collections of essays that were feminist readings of understudied authors, which by the beginning of the 21st century began to be criticized for simply founding a new canon and excluding women whose work did not reinforce a linear history of feminist development. Shires 1992 attempts to theorize and showcase the new scholarship on gender and culture. Ingram and Patai 1993 is a good example of broadening the feminist canon, and Harman and Meyer 1996 is a fine collection with a feminist focus, using a broader definition of feminism. Thompson 1999 likewise takes up writers who can be read in relation to Victorian views on the woman question but who may not be obviously feminist foremothers. The work continues: Boardman and Jones 2009 expands the landscape by focusing on less canonical writers and less critically privileged areas of literary production such as children’s literature. Wagner 2009 makes room for women who have been neglected by scholars because of their apparently conservative gender politics.

  • Boardman, Kay, and Shirley Jones, eds. Popular Victorian Women Writers. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Essays by several prominent scholars offer readings of less canonical women in relation to the literary market. Covers a number of lesser-known authors and genres, with special attention to social progress, sensation fiction, and children’s literature.

    Find this resource:

  • Harman, Barbara Leah, and Susan Meyer. The New Nineteenth Century: Feminist Readings of Underread Victorian Fiction. New York: Garland, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Attempts to expand the “feminist canon” formed in the 1970s and 1980s with underread authors. Thus the collection continues the work of recovery, but in a critical sense, in the light of assumptions derived from feminist work of the period. It gathers a number of strong essays on a variety of more obscure authors (female and male) to read them through the major lights of the feminist canon.

    Find this resource:

  • Ingram, Angela J. C., and Daphne Patai. Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers, 1889–1939. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Essay collection surveys seventeen radical women writers, many of whom were feminists. The authors focus on gender and class issues throughout. A major contribution to the recovery of women’s work.

    Find this resource:

  • Shires, Linda M., ed. Rewriting the Victorians: Theory, History, and the Politics of Gender. New York: Routledge, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good example of the broad range of historical and cultural-studies readings of gender, though short on anything beyond the binary division of masculine and feminine.

    Find this resource:

  • Thompson, Nicola. Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collection focuses attention on the range of women writers’ response to contemporary debates on the woman question. Seeks to complicate a discussion that had until then tended to divide these authors by their perceived feminism (or lack thereof) rather than exploring the complexities of their views in their own historical context.

    Find this resource:

  • Wagner, Tamara. Tamara Wagner, Antifeminism, and the Victorian Novel: Rereading Nineteenth-Century Women Writers. Amherst, NY: Cambria, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the significance of antifeminist—or perhaps just “unfeminist”—representations for literary developments in the period. Includes some recovery of women writers neglected earlier because of their nonconformity to the political history of feminism as understood at that time.

    Find this resource:

Class

Class was initially deemphasized in the early days of gender studies, partly because claims of the primacy of gender as a category characterized the early work and also because class was a popular subject in the 1970s. By the 1990s, however, gender scholars began working more from the premise that gender and class are not entirely separable, and they also realized that the insights of gender analysis led to new insights about class itself. Davis 1991 offers a rare study of working women in theater. Langland 1995 revises the understanding of middle-class domesticity as reliant on working-class women’s labor. Ingham 1996 also highlights Victorians’ canny and self-conscious manipulations of class and gender ideologies. The working classes have often received short shrift in literary scholarship, as much of the period’s novelistic literature, widely available to scholars until the advance of periodical scholarship, was produced and consumed by the middle classes. Young 1999 deals with the lower-middle class and masculinity, whereas Johnson 2001 addresses the working-class woman. Bivona and Henkle 2006 also deals with masculinity both in the middle class and working class. Langland 2002 picks up some of the author’s earlier concerns in a text that also explores the relationships of the two classes.

  • Bivona, Daniel, and Roger B. Henkle. The Imagination of Class: Masculinity and the Victorian Urban Poor. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Deals with the male middle-class representation of the urban slum dweller and the development of masculine professional identity. Best on the latter part of the 19th century.

    Find this resource:

  • Davis, Tracy. Actresses as Working Women: Their Social Identity in Victorian Culture. London: Routledge, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Historical study of working actresses, from a Marxist and feminist perspective. Explores some representations of women on stage.

    Find this resource:

  • Ingham, Patricia. The Language of Gender and Class: Transformation in the Victorian Novel. London: Routledge, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Details how novelists use and resist stereotypes of gender and class, arguing that by the fin de siècle, novelists were innovating new stories of femininity, as it comes to be detached from its traditional role of neutralizing class conflict in the early and mid-19th century.

    Find this resource:

  • Langland, Elizabeth. Nobody’s Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Revises the “angel in the house” narrative, showing how much power the middle-class domestic woman wielded, as women controlled social circulation through manipulation and performance of class signifiers. Reads gender and class as complex and intersecting signifying systems.

    Find this resource:

  • Langland, Elizabeth. Telling Tales: Gender and Narrative Form in Victorian Literature and Culture. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a series of readings of women in novels (by Charlotte Brontë, Anne Brontë, Thomas Hardy, Margaret Oliphant, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon) alongside historical material on working-class women. Reasserts the importance of gender as a category in literary and historical analysis of class and links it to representations of nation.

    Find this resource:

  • Johnson, Patricia E. Hidden Hands: Working-Class Women and Victorian Social-Problem Fiction. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Historically adept reading of the working-class woman in the texts of the period. Addresses an important gap in a literary criticism that has tended to focus disproportionately on the middle-class domestic woman.

    Find this resource:

  • Young, Arlene. Culture, Class, and Gender in the Victorian Novel: Gentlemen, Gents, and Working Women. New York: St. Martin’s, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines novelistic representations of social class and is strong on lower-middle-class masculinity in the late 19th century and figures such as the “gent.”

    Find this resource:

Women and Homosociality

A good deal of work has been done on women’s homosociality and homosexuality in literature. Important recent works include Vicinus 2004, which deals with erotic relationships. Oulton 2007 covers romantic friendships, and Marcus’s 2007 argument overlaps to some extent with Oulton’s but provides a thoughtful reformulation of the very question of the status of sexuality and friendship as much scholarship has conceived it.

  • Marcus, Sharon. Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Women’s romantic friendships have been poorly understood in recent times, and this volume does much to explore these relationships without 21st-century assumptions about lesbianism. An influential contribution.

    Find this resource:

  • Oulton, Carolyn. Romantic Friendship in Victorian Literature. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sometimes uneven but still valuable. Argues that there was a fully formulated discourse of same-sex romantic friendship that was equally anxious about the sexual potential of such relationships for both males and females. Dovetails with Marcus 2007 in arguing that women’s romantic friendships were marital preparation.

    Find this resource:

  • Vicinus, Martha. Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778–1928. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Details erotic friendships of English and American women in the period, ending with Radclyffe Hall’s landmark novel, The Well of Loneliness. Shows how women used a religious vocabulary to describe their erotic relationships.

    Find this resource:

Masculinity

The mid-1980s saw the beginning of masculinity studies. Vance 1985 is a good example of this scholarship examining religious ideals and masculinity, which would continue to influence work in the 1990s. Sedgwick 1985 offers a feminist/queer-studies angle and lays the foundation for future work on masculinity: it shows that the use of women as exchange objects between men actually illuminated the stronger bonds that defined the period’s understanding of male relationships. Broader work on masculinity as a construction, heavily informed by the work of Sedgwick, commenced in the 1990s, with the general establishment of a sense that gender was socially constructed and thus had a history of its own, leading to questions about the “unmarked term” of the masculine. But other mid-1990s studies reached back to Vance 1985 for inspiration and focused increasingly on understanding the Oxford Movement, the controversial early-Victorian religious movement that sought to strengthen Episcopal authority and shore up the power of the state church as formative of mid-Victorian models of masculinity. Hall 1994 offers a landmark collection on the mid-19th-century muscular Christianity movement as a self-consciously masculine answer to a perceived Victorian crisis in masculinity. Adams 1995 furthers our understanding of the mid-19th century by comparing muscular Christianity to the apparently very different concerns of aestheticism and the Oxford Movement and showing all to be anxious about the status of masculinity as performance. Dowling 1996 continues the period’s emphasis on Oxford to explore the emphasis on Hellenism that was to be so influential to understandings of homosexuality and male romantic friendship. Bradstock 2000 continues the work on religion that characterizes much of the work on normative middle-class masculinities, whereas Alderson 1998 discusses masculinity and religion in the specific context of imperialism. Robson 2001, in a more secular vein, addresses the cult of the little girl (also significant for several Oxford men), in terms of the figure’s importance to the adult male “gentleman” of the period and his relation to domesticity as a safe space.

  • Adams, James Eli. Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Foundational study of masculinity as performance, especially in midcentury, this study moves from dandies to ascetic masculine figures such as J. H. Newman and identifies their unlikely similarities in the construction of masculinity. One of the first studies to seriously take on normative masculinity from a gender-studies and queer-theory perspective.

    Find this resource:

  • Alderson, David. Mansex Fine: Religion, Manliness, and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century British Culture. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This discussion of manliness and religiosity in the period contains an excellent discussion of masculinity in the work of Oscar Wilde, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Henry Newman, and Charles Kingsley.

    Find this resource:

  • Bradstock, Andrew. Masculinity and Spirituality in Victorian Culture. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a good selection of work on masculinity and religion, as well as spirituality in general. Especially useful on anger, sexuality, purity, and strength, as well as more specific doctrinal issues.

    Find this resource:

  • Dowling, Linda. Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Crucial study of Oxford Hellenism and its larger impact on understandings of homosexual and male homosocial relationships in the period. Particularly important for the understanding of concept of effeminacy.

    Find this resource:

  • Hall, Donald E. Muscular Christianity: Embodying the Victorian Age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Foundational study exploring mid-Victorian muscular Christianity as exemplary of its age. Literary figures covered include Charles Kingsley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hughes, George MacDonald, and Walter Pater.

    Find this resource:

  • Robson, Catherine. Men in Wonderland: The Lost Girlhood of the Victorian Gentleman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses the Victorian fascination with little girls and argues that girls represented an essence of childhood that men identified with, as their childhood also represented a feminized period of protection within the home. An alternative to the frequent projection of a 20th-century pedophile narrative onto Victorian figures such as Lewis Carroll or Walter Pater.

    Find this resource:

  • Sedgwick, Eve. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduced the concept of homosociality to literary study as a term for same-sex relations within patriarchy, which could (but often did not) include homosexuality—and was sometimes hostile to it. Focuses on exchange of women between men, using Girard’s concept of the triangulation of desire with Gayle Rubin’s insights that patriarchy uses women as objects of exchange and bonding.

    Find this resource:

  • Vance, Norman. The Sinews of the Spirit: The Ideal of Christian Manliness in Victorian Literature and Religious Thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the mid-19th-century movement of muscular Christianity, especially in Kingsley and Hughes, but also in Samuel Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle, F. D. Maurice, and Thomas Arnold.

    Find this resource:

Men and Feminism

For a brief period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, once feminist criticism was becoming established and gender studies was beginning to emerge as a model, controversy swirled around men’s efforts in feminist criticism. Cynicism about men’s intentions in taking up a newly successful field that women had long struggled to have accepted combined with questions about the ability of even a sympathetic man to understand a woman’s perspective in patriarchy. Subsequently, scholarship moved on to other concerns and the debate died out, but two works on Victorian literature illustrate the concerns of this moment in a balanced way. Claridge and Langland 1990 directly takes up the question of the male critic and author, and Hall 1996 offers a male feminist reading of mid-19th-century male writers to Victorian women’s thought and activism.

  • Claridge, Laura P., and Elizabeth Langland. Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a series of readings by men that address the question of the male critic and author’s role in attempting to unsettle linguistic and literary gender hierarchies. Contains several good essays on Romantic and Victorian literature, especially poetry.

    Find this resource:

  • Hall, Donald. Fixing Patriarchy: Feminism and Mid-Victorian Male Novelists. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the response of male novelists and poets in the 1840s through the 1860s to women’s thought and activism, reading them through discourses of aesthetics, economics, religion, and science.

    Find this resource:

The Fin de Siècle

The fin de siècle is a period of particular interest to scholars of gender, although often those discussions have played out in relation to particular authors or events. The period is marked by a turn to queer culture and sexual exploration, the emergence of a large literature for adolescents, the artistic movements of aestheticism and decadence, and the appearance of the New Woman (see The New Woman). Showalter 1990 reflects on the particularity of centuries’ endings (here comparing the ends of the 19th and 20th) in relation to sex and gender roles. Ledger and McCracken 1995 also compares the two periods. Richardson 2006 explores gender in both New Woman fiction and imperial adventure fiction that was identified with male readers. The standard works on aestheticism and gender remain the founding ones: Dellamora 1990 is a study of masculinity that reads aestheticism back to its Oxford roots; Psomiades 1997 reads the female icon of beauty in the art and literature of aestheticism; Schaffer 2000 recovers a female side of the aesthetic movement; and Schaffer and Psomiades 1999 is a collection showcasing the work of others in this emerging area.

Race and Empire

Serious work on the empire and gender in the period began in the 1990s. Early work tended to focus on the view from the metropole—or at least the metropolitan perspective abroad, often in travel writing. Suleri 1992 looks at the representation of India, whereas Morgan 1996 deals with women writers and landscape in a variety of imperial settings. Sharpe 1993 likewise takes up the figure of the white women in discourses of empire, though in texts by authors of both sexes. David 1996 takes up British women’s writing in the cause of empire and ideological readings of women’s complicity with that agenda. Alderson 1998 begins the turn to masculinity studies and religious ideas that was key in thinking through normative masculinity in this period. Work has continued along these lines, but recent approaches have broadened out the 1990s focus on India. Krebs 2004 takes up the Boer War, and Rosenberg 2007 addresses the Caribbean and the theme of women and nation important to subaltern and postcolonial analyses.

  • Alderson, David. Mansex Fine: Religion, Manliness, and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century British Culture. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discussion of manliness and religiosity with narratives of empire.

    Find this resource:

  • David, Deirdre. Rule Britannia: Women, Empire and Victorian Writing. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the role of Victorian women in advancing the cause of empire, both as writers and as characters. Looks at novels and other forms of writing. Also examines the figures of the governess, the missionary, and the domestic woman.

    Find this resource:

  • Krebs, Paula. Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines intersections of gender and race in imperialism at the turn of the century, particularly the Boer War of 1899–1902, through literature and journalism.

    Find this resource:

  • Mohanram, Radhika. Imperial White: Race, Diaspora, and the British Empire. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Deals with the relationship of whiteness and imperial masculinity, in Britain and in the colonial setting.

    Find this resource:

  • Morgan, Susan. Place Matters: Gendered Geography in Victorian Women’s Travel Books. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Covers books produced by women travel writers on the imperial landscape.

    Find this resource:

  • Rosenberg, Leah Reade. Nationalism and the Formation of Caribbean Literature. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Historically attentive study containing significant and neglected Victorian material, showing how English-speaking Caribbean authors first created a Caribbean and national literary identity. Study includes Afro-Caribbeans who were politically active as early as the 1840s as well as Indians and other immigrant groups. Is attentive to women and homosexuality.

    Find this resource:

  • Sharpe, Jenny. Allegories of Empire: The Figure of the Woman in the Colonial Text. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Deals with representations of the white woman in ideologies of empire and in the literature. Good especially on representations of the Indian Mutiny (or Rebellion) of 1857.

    Find this resource:

  • Suleri, Sara. The Rhetoric of English India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores colonial and postcolonial writers’ representations of India, particularly the identification of the self with and through the Other. Particularly good on women’s aesthetic representations of India as picturesque.

    Find this resource:

Childhood

Largely beginning in the 1990s, a good deal of work has been done on childhood, specifically children’s culture and gender. Nelson 1991 has led the way, drawing the connections between a feminized ideal and boyhood. Another major area of study has been on the publishing explosion late in the 19th century, which was aimed at female adolescents. This publishing revolution was ably illuminated by Nelson and Vallone 1994 and more deeply and comprehensively detailed in Mitchell 1995. Work on fairy tales has always made up a significant portion of work on children’s culture, and Knoepflmacher 2000 offers an example of this focus as well as of this work’s theoretical tendency, which is derived from its connections to folklore scholarship. The work is something of an outlier from the rest of literary scholarship in the period, as it tends to work within Freudian or Darwinist frameworks. Denisoff 2008 contains some good material on gender and shows off the range of more recent approaches. Mitchell 1995 illuminates both publishing history and the new construction of girlhood at the fin de siècle.

  • Denisoff, Dennis, ed. The Nineteenth-Century Child and Consumer Culture. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Many essays take up gender, and this collection brings the reader up to date on the range of approaches to a broader notion of childhood and culture.

    Find this resource:

  • Knoepflmacher, U. C. Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairy Tales, and Femininity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reads Victorian fairy tales in light of the period’s debates about childhood and makes a distinction between male and female writers’ attitudes. Many of the book’s ideas had become dated by the time of its publication, but it contains a good deal of useful material nonetheless.

    Find this resource:

  • Mitchell, Sally. The New Girl: Girls Culture in England. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines fin-de-siècle literature for girls, including the rising periodical market for adolescents, and is especially strong on new ideals of work and education.

    Find this resource:

  • Nelson, Claudia. Boys Will Be Girls: The Feminine Ethic and British Children’s Fiction, 1857–1917. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provocative study explores the relationship between the “angel in the house” and boyhood, through literature for boys. Nelson argues that the gentle, feminine values of angelhood were touted in boys’ books as a way of weakening what was seen as the brutal competitiveness of masculinity. The book also traces the erosion of this “feminine” ideal of boyhood toward the end of the 19th century.

    Find this resource:

  • Nelson, Claudia, and Lynne Vallone. The Girl’s Own: Cultural Histories of the Anglo-American Girl, 1830–1915. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This collection of essays explores British and American representations of the adolescent girl, a figure that elicited ambivalent feelings in the Victorian period, representing dangerous potential for good or (often sexualized) evil. Deals with art and literature and cultural history.

    Find this resource:

Poetry

Much Victorian scholarship on poetry tends to focus on particular authors or on broad studies that include gender but do not make it a primary focus. The early 1990s, however, did see some recovery work paralleling the work on fiction. Leighton 1992 is the best example of such a study; in fact, it launched the field. Lootens 1996 takes up the question of canonicity that had long been debated on the fiction side and illuminated some different aspects specific to poetry. Armstrong and Blain 2000 and Chapman 2003 both follow up on and expand recovery efforts and also offer new approaches to familiar authors. Felluga 2005 is a good example of reading masculinity in the circulation and reception of one Romantic poet’s persona and texts throughout the next several decades.

  • Armstrong, Isobel, and Virginia Blain. Women’s Poetry, Late Romantic to Late Victorian: Gender and Genre, 1830–1900. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collection of essays capturing some of the late-20th-century ferment around recovery of women poets. Collection includes some focus on empire and discusses the literary marketplace, lesbian poetics, national identities, cultural discourses, and understudied figures such as Toru Dutt, Sarojini Naidu, Margaret Veley, Michael Field, and Amy Levy.

    Find this resource:

  • Chapman, Alison, ed. Victorian Women Poets. Suffolk, UK: D. S. Brewer, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Essays revise canonical poets and also provide some recovery. Nicely updated focus brings in literary history and canonicity, politics, nation, and circulation.

    Find this resource:

  • Felluga, Dino Franco. The Perversity of Poetry: Romantic Ideology and the Popular Male Poet of Genius. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    More about Byron than any other poet, Felluga’s book nonetheless draws broader conclusions about the representations of masculinity, Romanticism, and poetry throughout the period.

    Find this resource:

  • Leighton, Angela. Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1992

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Recovery and rereading of eight major women poets traces a women’s tradition and aims to reconstruct the canon. Focuses on close reading of verbal patterns.

    Find this resource:

  • Lootens, Tricia. Lost Saints: Silence, Gender and Victorian Literary Canonization. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the relationship between literary and religious canons in the creation of a Victorian literary history. Argues that canonicity was given to women poets such as Felicia Hemans, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Christina Rossetti, but often at the cost of their work being taken seriously as literature.

    Find this resource:

Periodicals

Work on Victorian periodicals has been an area of Victorian studies since the 1970s, though often the work was that of historical scholarship rather than literary analysis. Analysis of gender in Victorian periodicals, which began in the 1990s, can be said to have properly begun with the pathbreaking Brake 1994. Nelson 1995, coming from a children’s-literature background, moves toward periodical studies, focusing on representations of fatherhood. Thompson 1996 focuses on gender and reviewing practices, moving beyond the older model of identifying reviews of particular female-authored novels in terms of gender expectations. Since 2000 a number of excellent books have focused on periodicals research; Fraser, et al. 2003 exemplifies the range of recent approaches in relation to gender.

  • Brake, Laurel. Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century. New York: New York University Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Among the first book-length studies to address the interdependence of politics, literature, and journalism as a continuous textual field, the volume includes a good deal of detailed study of individual publications, especially women’s magazines in the latter part of the 19th century.

    Find this resource:

  • Fraser, Hilary, Judith Johnston, and Stephanie Green. Gender and the Victorian Periodical. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Innovative analysis of a large number of periodical texts that alternates close readings with foci on larger trends to get at the complexity of gender representation within the huge field of Victorian periodical production.

    Find this resource:

  • Nelson, Claudia. Invisible Men: Fatherhood in Victorian Periodicals, 1850–1910. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the growth of periodical literature from 1850 to 1910 and its representations of fatherhood, often in relation to the role of motherhood in relation, in turn, to patriotism and nation.

    Find this resource:

  • Thompson, Nicola Diane. Reviewing Sex: Gender and the Reception of Victorian Novels. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Starting from the knowledge that gender influenced the reception of Victorian novels, the book analyzes over a hundred 19th-century reviews, showing that the gender hierarchy could work both against and for men and in favor of women who conformed to expectations.

    Find this resource:

Other Arts

Work on the visual and other arts in the period is steadily increasing. The mid-1980s saw a surge in works that read gender as a principal concern in the arts along with literature. Dijkstra 1986 gives an influential reading of representations of female sexuality and degeneracy in the latter part of the 19th century, whereas Nead 1988 focuses on normative expectations for femininity. Harrison and Taylor 1992 includes theater and poetry, whereas Kestner 1995 illustrates the mid-1990s turn to masculinity, along with Danahay 2005, which follows the theme of work. Andres 2005 takes up a specific artistic movement, its form, and its thematic impact on literature.

  • Andres, Sophia. The Pre-Raphaelite Art of the Victorian Novel: Narrative Challenges to Visual Gendered Boundaries. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2005

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Takes visual art seriously in its dialogue with the fiction of the time, both as a topic and as advocating formal principles. Reads gender carefully through these intersections. Focuses primarily on the Pre-Raphaelites and Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy.

    Find this resource:

  • Danahay, Martin A. Gender at Work in Victorian Culture: Literature, Art and Masculinity. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Concentrates on the identification of work and masculinity and the troubled relation of artists and writers to notions of labor that emphasized the body. Covers literature, including nonfiction, and visual arts, including paintings and photography.

    Find this resource:

  • Dijkstra, Bram. Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of the Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes misogyny in the literary and visual arts, with attention to other discourses (especially Darwinism) and the larger European context. Liberally illustrated and very influential on other studies of the period.

    Find this resource:

  • Harrison, Anthony H., and Beverly Taylor. Gender and Discourse in Victorian Literature and Art. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collection of essays includes a valuable focus on poetry and other arts (painting and theater) from a gender-studies perspective.

    Find this resource:

  • Kestner, Joseph A. Masculinities in Victorian Painting. Scolar, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reads representation of masculinity in multiple cultural contexts and includes some literary material.

    Find this resource:

  • Nead, Lynda. Myths of Sexuality: Representations of Women in Victorian Britain. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Feminist art history explores the depiction of women artists in terms of notions of expectations for proper female behavior. Relates paintings to several other texts, including literary ones.

    Find this resource:

Genre and Form

As the French feminist-inflected approach to a gendered language came to seem less productive, critics began to concentrate on issues of gender and genre or form. Warhol 1989 offers a late example of the concern with a gendered authorship, moving forward from the earlier focus on language to a focus on narrative form. Morgan 1990 looks at the specificities of feminine sage discourse. Harsh 1994 builds on the work of Armstrong to focus on mid-19th-century “condition of England” novels. Gagnier 1991 and Corbett 1992 work with autobiography: Gagnier’s is the more sweeping study, covering both sexes from 1832 to 1920, whereas Corbett concentrates on women of specific literary and public interest in roughly the same period. Fraiman 1993 covers that most Victorian of forms, the Bildungsroman, and Maitzen 1998 attends to historical writing. By the end of the 1990s, studies of fictional genres tend to give way to interests in the popular more broadly and in historical forces, as well as material culture, visual culture, science, and economics, with the exceptions of sensation and New Woman fiction (see The New Woman Novel). Studies on women of the Victorian stage, however, began to expand in the late 1990s: Newey 2005 is both an excellent example and resource for those wanting information about women who wrote for the theater.

  • Corbett, Mary Jean. Representing Femininity: Middle-Class Subjectivity in Victorian and Edwardian Women’s Autobiographies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Relates women’s experience to social representations of women’s experiences and their own rhetorical presentation of their public lives: from intellectuals like Martineau through actresses to the political activism of suffragists.

    Find this resource:

  • Fraiman, Susan. Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of the female Bildungsroman in the 18th and 19th centuries that explores the tensions between ambition and affiliation, and between becoming an individual and being part of a family unit.

    Find this resource:

  • Gagnier, Regenia. Subjectivities: A History of Self-Representation on England 1832–1920. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of Victorian autobiographies that is excellent on both gender and class. One of the few studies that does justice to working-class subjects.

    Find this resource:

  • Harsh, Constance. Subversive Heroines: Feminist Resolutions of Social Crisis in the Condition-of-England Novel. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the “condition of England” novels of the 1840s and 1850s, especially the importance of women characters in solving social problems. Covers authors such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Kingsley, Frances Trollope, and Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna.

    Find this resource:

  • Maitzen, Rohan Amanda. Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing. New York: Garland, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores Victorian women’s historical writings, attempting to show that even for the Victorians, history was not necessarily a masculine enterprise. Traces the use of some feminine-identified metaphors, such as needlework, in Victorian discussions of historiography. Valuable for its suggestive focus on an understudied subject.

    Find this resource:

  • Morgan, Thais, ed. Victorian Sages and Cultural Discourse: Renegotiating Gender and Power. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rereads not only male sage discourse from a feminist perspective but also follows the tradition of female sage writers.

    Find this resource:

  • Newey, Kate. Women’s Theatre Writing in Victorian Britain. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study covers the work of hundreds of women who wrote for the stage and offers an extensive bibliography. Focuses on gender-specific themes and has a checklist of British women playwrights and their plays from 1800 to 1900.

    Find this resource:

  • Warhol, Robyn R. Gendered Interventions: Narrative Discourse in the Victorian Novel. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brings together a formalist narratology and feminist criticism. Identifies a feminine and masculine gendered narrative and narrator, and several narrative strategies, in a wide range of novels from the period. Exemplary readings include Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Kingsley, William Thackeray, George Eliot, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens, and Anthony Trollope.

    Find this resource:

Sensation

The two genres that have received the most detailed attention as feminine-identified in the period are sensation fiction (racy, plot-driven narratives of the 1860s and 1870s) and New Woman fiction of the 1890s (see The New Woman Novel). Hughes 1980 is the first strong, detailed study of the sensation genre. The field languished for a while thereafter, until gender scholars took up questions of genre, form, and readership in the 1990s. Cvetkovich 1992 studies questions of gendered affect and politics. In the mid-1990s turn to the discussion of feminized genres, sensation and New Woman fiction tended to be studied together, as in Pykett 1992 and Flint 1995. Gilbert 1997 opens the discussion up to later novels by authors identified as sensational and offers a reading of the genre’s construction. In the last decade, sensation has become established as part of the paracanon, and scholarship has often progressed to single-author studies, or “sensation and” studies (sensation and modernity, sensation and Pre-Raphaelite art, etc.) informed by gender studies without necessarily making gender a primary focus. Harrison and Fantina 2006, however, offers a range of up-to-date readings, including several essays on gender.

  • Cvetkovich, Ann. Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Frames a history of affect, showing that ideas about the expression of feeling as liberating, healthy, or politically transformative are themselves historically specific. The book takes the sensation novel as its primary example and reads the relation of gender and affect therein.

    Find this resource:

  • Flint, Kate. The Woman Reader, 1837–1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Detailed study of the woman reader, both actual and representational, in the period, giving close attention to two genres: sensation fiction and the New Woman novel.

    Find this resource:

  • Gilbert, Pamela K. Disease, Desire, and the Body in Victorian Women’s Popular Novels. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that popular fiction in mid-Victorian Britain was regarded as both feminine and diseased. Early work defined as sensational and later novels of each writer are interpreted in the context of their reception, showing that attitudes toward fiction drew on Victorian beliefs about health, gender, and class.

    Find this resource:

  • Harrison, Kimberly, and Richard Fantina. Victorian Sensations: Essays on a Scandalous Genre. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows a range of recent work, including several essays on gender offering readings of masculinity, empire, and queer desire.

    Find this resource:

  • Hughes, Winifred. The Maniac in the Cellar: Sensation Novels of the 1860s. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First detailed study of the sensation novel. The title refers to its take on Gilbert and Gubar’s reading of the high-culture novel.

    Find this resource:

  • Pykett, Lyn. The Improper Feminine: The Women’s Sensation Novel and the New Woman Writing. London: Routledge, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Pykett reads sensation fiction and New Woman fiction against each other, seeing them as uniquely connected in their mobilization of gender concerns and in their identification with a gendered reader and authorship. She also traces direct influence over time.

    Find this resource:

The New Woman Novel

The New Woman novel, being both female-centered and, in broad terms, feminist, early on attracted a good deal of attention from critics sensitive to gender. The earliest manifestations of this interest usually involved readings of the character of the New Woman in male-authored fiction, as is the case in Cunningham 1978. Ardis 1990 is foundational—it is the first full study from an up-to-date theoretical perspective and offers a strong bibliography. Kranidis 1995 takes up feminist fiction, including many works that were absorbed into the New Woman category by subsequent scholarship. Ledger’s 1997 study draws on history and fiction to elegantly complicate beliefs that were fast hardening into canards about the New Woman. Heliman 2000 and Richardson and Willis 2001 both expand the emerging canon of New Woman fiction and provide insights into the complexity of the period’s feminisms.

Adventure

The genre that has received the most attention from scholars of masculinity, outside of forms addressed in the Fin de Siècle section, is adventure, especially imperial adventure. Dawson 1994 offers unusual historical range and also a psychoanalytic (object-relations) approach unique in this bibliography. Phillips 1997 offers a good overview from Daniel Defoe to J. M. Coetzee.

  • Dawson, Graham. Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire, and the Imagining of Masculinities. London: Routledge, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Unusual Kleinian psychoanalytic approach to British soldier-heroes as portrayed in nonfiction and fiction of the period. Begins with Scott, moves through the Indian War of 1857 and on to Henry Havelock and T. E. Lawrence before terminating in the 20th century.

    Find this resource:

  • Phillips, Richard. Mapping Men and Empire: Geographies of Adventure. London: Routledge, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses primarily on 18th and 19th-century adventure stories and their representation of whiteness and otherness in an imperial geography.

    Find this resource:

Themes

Since the late 1980s feminism and gender studies became sufficiently established to offer readings of specific themes and problems in literature, which were generally used to open up a discussion of broader cultural question. The earliest of such studies is Munich 1989, a seemingly narrow but actually rich reading of the figure of Andromeda in Victorian culture. Yeazell 1991 and Frost 1995 both address the issue of courtship in the novel. Michie 1992 takes up the question that was coming to be quite a concern in feminism: differences of race, class, and sexuality between women. Judd 1998 treats the figure of the nurse, and Bernstein 1997 treats the theme of women’s confessions. Murphy 2006 addresses the intersection of Victorian science and literature.

  • Bernstein, Susan David. Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Working from and critiquing a Foucauldian concept of confession, the book explores the gendered power relationships embedded in literary scenes of female confession. Shows that although women are often depicted testifying to wrongs done them by others, they are always reconfigured as the transgressor. Also explores anti-Catholicism.

    Find this resource:

  • Frost, Ginger. Promises Broken: Courtship, Class, and Gender in Victorian England. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Working with real and fictitious breach-of-promise cases, Frost uses this archive to offer an examination of courtship practices of lower- to middle-class Britons. Illuminating on gender and class expectations.

    Find this resource:

  • Judd, Catherine. Bedside Seductions: Nursing and the Victorian Imagination, 1830–1880. New York: St. Martin’s, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Treats the figure of the nurse in cultural history and fiction. Stronger on the fiction than the history, the book still offers a useful corrective to the dominance of Florence Nightingale over the Victorian nurse’s story. As nursing became professionalized, the nurse embodied some of the difficult relationships between femininity and public space, class and sexual purity in texts by Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and Mary Seacole.

    Find this resource:

  • Michie, Helena. Sororophobia: Differences among Women in Literature and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the portrayal of identification and difference among women, from Victorian fiction to African American mulatto novels, up to the late 20th century. A good treatment of some of the debates around “woman” as a unifying category in feminism; especially good on the concept of the family—sisterhood and maternity—as ways of defining women’s bonds.

    Find this resource:

  • Munich, Adrienne. Andromeda’s Chains: Gender and Interpretation in Victorian Literature and Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores male writers’ and artists’ representation of women through the Andromeda myth, wherein the author finds increasing fear of female power and rebellion.

    Find this resource:

  • Murphy, Patricia. In Science’s Shadow: Literary Constructions of Late Victorian Women. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the woman question in scientific discourses, reading these through works by Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, Charles Reade, Constance Naden, and Marianne North.

    Find this resource:

  • Yeazell, Ruth Bernard. Fictions of Modesty: Women and Courtship in the English Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comments on the centrality of depictions of female restraint and female sexual desire or lack thereof, especially in British fiction as opposed to French. Because of the possibility of individual choice for young women, English fiction concentrated on courtship (instead of adultery) and the development of the consciousness of the young woman. Deals with Samuel Richardson, John Cleland, Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and Elizabeth Gaskell.

    Find this resource:

Domesticity, the Private, and the Public

Among the most significant discussions in studies of the Victorian period in the 1980s and 1990s was the debate concerning the history of separate spheres. The reality or falsity of the putative divide between public and private, as well as the emerging mobility of women, have provided grounds for a number of studies. Nord 1995 takes up this topic from an urban-history perspective. McKee 1997 is a useful overall discussion of the question and reading of the novel through its lens. Cohen 1998 offers a different way to look at the question, seeing in the rhetoric of domesticity the kind of language of professionalization usually applied to the public domain of men. Nunokawa 2003 gives an insightful reading of the Victorian woman as a form of capital withdrawn from public circulation. Logan 2006 shows how the scholarship on domesticity informs scholarship now, providing a material-culture reading of the parlor, the liminal space within the home where visitors were seen.

  • Cohen, Monica F. Professional Domesticity in the Victorian Novel: Women, Work, and Home. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows how domestic work was conceptualized in relation to newly evolving professionalism. Provides a significant complication of the dominant paradigm in history and criticism of reading gender roles through Victorian notions of separate spheres.

    Find this resource:

  • Logan, Thad. The Victorian Parlour: A Cultural Study. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reads the parlor as a center of domesticity. Exceptionally productive in reading conflicts about gender. Interdisciplinary approach to material culture includes readings of literature and art.

    Find this resource:

  • McKee, Patricia. Public and Private: Gender, Class, and the British Novel. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Summarizes the scholarship on the public and private and studies several exemplary 18th- and 19th-century novels.

    Find this resource:

  • Nord, Deborah Epstein. Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation, and the City. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Starting from the familiar figure of the male flaneur (that is, urban stroller and observer), the book examines the new mobility of middle-class women in the urban streets and their movement from being simply objects to being potential subjects of a specifically urban gaze. Reads fictive representations of women on the streets and also reconstructs the historical experiences of women accessing this newly available space.

    Find this resource:

  • Nunokawa, Jeff. The Afterlife of Property: Domestic Security and the Victorian Novel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Theoretically adept study focuses on the domestic woman and her affective labor as nonfungible, nonalienable property, especially in Dickens and Eliot.

    Find this resource:

LAST MODIFIED: 03/02/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199799558-0076

back to top

Article

Up

Down