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Title: Appropriate fields of action : nineteenth-century representations of the female philanthropist and the parochial sphere
Author: Mearns, Gabrielle
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2012
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Abstract:
Literary representations of female philanthropy challenge the separate spheres dichotomy that we continue to associate with nineteenth-century literature and society, as the work of the philanthropic heroine instead depicts a diversity of social spaces located between the family home and the worlds of commerce and politics. These social spaces – one of the most important being the parish – are represented as highly receptive to the influence of middle- and upper-class women by the writers of my study, thereby demonstrating how female authors could formulate the geography of their fictions to support their participation in contemporary social debate. In this thesis I use the term ‘parochial spheres’ to describe these spaces, which include the landed estate, the village and the military regiment. My emphasis on parochial spheres calls attention to the gentlewoman’s relationships with rural and provincial environments. I use the concept of ‘borderline’ female citizenship to think about these relationships, as it indicates the potential power of the philanthropic heroine in her community, as well as the likelihood of power contests between the female philanthropist and her male contemporaries. The writers of my thesis are mainly drawn from the Victorian period. However, I also examine works by Hannah More, and the image of the philanthropist across the period. More is crucial to the representation of female philanthropy, as female authors interact with a tradition of conservative reform popularised by the Evangelical polymath at the beginning of the period. Embedded within this tradition is the narrative of maternalism, which enables women writers to depict their heroines as the protective conservers of the social order, but also as the generators of new, feminised solutions to public questions of reform. These fluctuations between conservation and reform reveal the significance of the parochial sphere to women’s writing during the Victorian period.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.582264  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman ; PR English literature
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