This dissertation is accessible only to the Illinois State University community.

  • Off-Campus ISU Users: To download this item, click the "Off-Campus Download" button below. You will be prompted to log in with your ISU ULID and password.
  • Non-ISU Users: Contact your library to request this item through interlibrary loan.

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation-ISU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English: English Studies

First Advisor

Cynthia Huff


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.


Imported from ProQuest Frank_ilstu_0092E_10287.pdf


Page Count


Available for download on Sunday, October 13, 2024

Off-Campus Download