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Title: Nature and gender in Victorian women's writing : Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti.
Author: Day, Paula.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3419 3937
Awarding Body: University of Lancaster
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 1990
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This thesis explores the ways in which four Victorian women writers - Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Christina Rossetti - work with the gender associations implicit in the nature imagery of the male literary tradition. In the Introduction I explore the possible approaches available to the feminist literary critic. I then review the gender associations of nature symbolism in the male literary tradition, and the ways in which some Victorian critics used these to define the characteristics of women's writing. In Part One, I find that these writers re-affirm the idea of the fertile earth as 'mother na ture'. I argue, however, that in each case this projection functions to create a female space outside of patriarchal culture, in a symbolic relationship with a strong mother figure. Looking at Emily Bronte's construction of a 'male nature', I question how far this constitutes a reversal of the traditional pattern. I then examine some ways in which 'womanliness' is located in valley or mountain landscapes. In Part Two, I consider the moon as a symbol of femininity. Although, as in some of Christina Rossetti's poetry, it may become a metaphor for woman's dependence on the solar male God, it can also suggest female autonomy. In Emily Bronte's poetry, the moon of female vision is adhered to in preference to the 'sun' of male power. Charlotte Bronte exploits the moon's ambivalent associations to represent virginal autonomy and vengeful rage as different aspects of female psychic power. In Part Three, I turn to the image of woman as flower. Whereas Christina Rossetti uses this in conventional ways to expose women's sexual vulnerability, Elizabeth Barrett Browning subverts it to create images of strong female identity. My Conclusion emphasises the ideological, rather than archetypal, origins of literary symbolism, and the ways in which women writers negotiate successfully with the existing traditions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature