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Title: George Eliot's women readers and the anxiety of female authorship
Author: Danes-Gharbaoui, Sophia Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 3351
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This study identifies and explores a recurrent trope in transatlantic literature by women in which the fictional female reader is used as a site on which to explore the anxiety of female authorship. Through their configurations of the reading woman in their fiction, the female authors examined in this thesis attempt to reconcile themselves with the established opposition between femininity and creativity that persisted in transatlantic literary criticism in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. As a writer who was a literary icon for subsequent women writers, and who explores this trope in a complex and often ambivalent way, George Eliot is central to this tradition. Her masculinisation in literary criticism, combined with her failure to commit fully to her androgynous model of female authorship – a model which asserted women’s capacity to write in both a ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ way – had serious, long-lasting repercussions for subsequent female authors. Women writers were faced with an inescapable female literary role model who was at once proof of the compatibility of femininity and artistry, and yet who was frequently presented as an exception to other female authors and used to reinforce bias against women writers. In responding to Eliot’s reception and appropriating her use of the female reader in their fiction, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Edith Wharton and Dorothy Richardson added their own voices to the discussions about female authorship taking place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. For these authors, Eliot became a point of reference from which to articulate their own attitudes towards bias against women that persisted in some branches of literary criticism. In defining their attitudes towards Eliot and the contradictory ideas she and her fiction presented, they were exploring their identities as female artists.
Supervisor: McDonagh, Josephine ; Floyd, Janet Melinda Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available