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Date of Award
Thesis and Dissertation-ISU Access Only
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of English: English Studies
This project contributes to Victorian studies as a whole and specifically argues for a new reading practice for interpreting Victorian literature by positioning modes of communicative representation as a means of reading variations in Victorian families and examining the lives of Victorian women to provide insight into the ways in which they gain access to power and agency in their negotiated familial relations. Deconstructing what I argue are empty and monolithic signifiers, I posit that only through moving beyond the ideal concepts of "separate spheres ideology" and "the Victorian family" can twenty-first century readers access the nuanced and intricate variations of the multiplicity of Victorian families and negotiated familial roles Victorian women performed to gain access to power and agency in Victorian Britain. Utilizing modes of discourse prevalent in the Victorian era, my work mirrors Krista Ratcliffe's feminist practice of rhetorical listening to engage in a kind of cross-cultural communication by attending to historical and cultural differences between my twenty-first century cultural and historical location and those of the Victorian texts, figures, and characters I explore. I read George Eliot's Middlemarch, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, and Hannah Cullwick's The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick, Victorian Maidservant through modes of communicative representation, including gossip, fellow-feeling, and the work of women's hands, mouths, and clothing, to explore the ways in which Victorian families exist within what I argue is a slip between the public and private spheres, positioning women's varying domestic identities and subjectivities and their familial roles as carefully negotiated means of wielding power and agency.
Frank, Gretchen Marie, "Discourses of the Nineteenth-Century Family: Reading British Victorian Women and Their Families through Communicative Representation" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 225.