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Title: Clothing the body : representing femininity in Victorian narratives of selfhood
Author: Puri, Tara
ISNI:       0000 0004 2694 1992
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis looks at the women who inhabit Victorian literature, focusing on the ways in which they are represented as well as the way in which they choose to represent themselves. I argue that this self-definition takes place consciously, and that Victorian heroines often choose to display their selfhood through sartorial austerity. Through resisting the inclusion in a scopic economy where worth is judged by appearance, these women make their choice of clothing a highly expressive medium for registering a critique of reading subjectivity through appearance, and the critique of a society where women's bodies are constant loci of scrutiny. But it is also a choice that reveals their unease with their own sexuality, their struggles with their desires, as well as their attempts to exert control over their bodies. They instead manage to create a private space within a public mode of expression, a space from which to resist societal pressures. The dressing room then becomes a significant site for the creation of female identity, as well as a certain kind of feminine intimacy. A room privileged as uniquely feminine, it provides the privacy for female friendships. Also central to this self-creation is the mirror, a fraught terrain where contemporary anxieties about women are relocated. But in numerous novels, this is not just a site for vanity and duplication of identity, but also for self-reflection. The thesis concludes with an examination of the literary representation of hair, its polysemic meanings, and its autonomous expressive quality. The writers focused on are Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Brad- don, Thomas Hardy, Christina Rossetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. The paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt also provide a double narrative to these literary representations.
Supervisor: Edmond, Roderick S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: PN Literature (General)