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Title: 'A large and passionate humanity plays about her' : women and moral agency in the late Victorian social problem novel
Author: Murdoch, Christina
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 8444
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis examines responses to the idea of a specific female moral agency in depictions of women’s philanthropic work by late nineteenthcentury female novelists. Focusing on depictions of romantic and sexual female experience in the late nineteenth-century campaign against poverty, I explore the role of gender and sexuality in the making of the female moral self in novels by Mrs. Humphry Ward, Iota, Margaret Harkness, Jane Hume Clapperton, Gertrude Dix. I demonstrate the manner in which altruism was linked to romantic love and sexual desire, and show how this idea surfaced in the love-plot in novels by late nineteenth-century women. I argue that the novel was regarded as a valuable instrument to further the process of social reform, owing to its perceived unique ability to arouse the reader’s sympathies; therefore, these novelists used the novel as a tool for constructing the altruistic self. Reading the novels alongside contemporary non-fiction discourse, I undertake an analysis of different romance plots and show how they relate to the debates of the social reform movement of the late nineteenth century. Finally, I suggest that by using the novel, and especially the romance plot, which was regarded as a feminine form of expression, these novelists are defending the idea of a feminine ethic, and a feminine conception of morality that was defined by emotion, feeling, and sympathy, as opposed to the more masculine scientific and sociological ideas behind the late nineteenth century social reform movement.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature