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Title: The art of friendship : Elizabeth Barrett Browning's creative and material connections to William Wordsworth and her intimate circle
Author: Murat, Amy Christina Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 7970 0252
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis explores the material practices of nineteenth-century friendship and how they support female creative impulses to writing. It highlights the powerful role of material objects in forging connections between individuals. Traditional models of inspiration and creation have often been based on either male-centric Romantic and Bloomian ideas of the 'anxiety of influence', or women-focused ideas about the 'anxiety of authorship'. But in my study, Victorian literary creativity is shown as far less abstract, introspective, fraught and competitive than existing accounts have suggested. In fact, it was insistently material, based on feeling, reverence, and sociability. For many of the era's leading female writers, the materiality of inspiration was a complex affair - both self-abnegating and confident. I address these matters through the friendship of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Mary Russell Mitford, documented in a correspondence conducted between 1836 and 1855. Putting Barrett Browning at the centre of my study as one of the most iconic female poets of the period, I explore her shared dialogue and exchange of texts and objects with Mitford in connection with William Wordsworth, which I situate within their wider heterosocial networks and gift-giving. This thesis presents the first real study of Barrett Browning's sociable exchange of material gifts, and offers a new perception of her philosophy and practice of art based on a poetics of the gift. I draw on a range of visual and material artefacts (portraiture, seeds, flowers, and dogs) to show how material objects as gifts operate within mixed gendered artistic groups as catalysts to creativity. I build on previous literary criticism concerning the gift to understand aesthetic responses to objects in the context of networks of friendly exchange. By exploring collective bodily and emotive responses to written and visual works, I add to new work on multi-sensory experiences of art and material culture. Complicating traditional notions of literary periodization and separate spheres surrounding female inspiration, I hope to resituate Barrett Browning in the Romantic context from which she emerged, and broaden the scope of studies of female creativity.
Supervisor: McDonagh, Josephine ; Buckland, Adelene ; Eger, Elizabeth Selina ; Boyson, Rowan Rose ; Brant, Clare Victoria Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available