The Victorian Woman Novelist in an Era of Reform: The Effects of the Position of Women and Serialization on the Fiction of Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot

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Ryerson thesis.pdf

Citation

[Unknown User], “The Victorian Woman Novelist in an Era of Reform: The Effects of the Position of Women and Serialization on the Fiction of Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot,” Scholar@Simmons, accessed April 4, 2020, https://beatleyweb.simmons.edu/scholar/items/show/384.

Title

The Victorian Woman Novelist in an Era of Reform: The Effects of the Position of Women and Serialization on the Fiction of Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot

Creator

Ryerson, Anna

Date

2019

Description

The middle of the nineteenth century in Britain saw the advent of a host of “social novels” addressing concerns about class differences and the effects of the Industrial Revolution. In this thesis I am particularly interested in two such novels by prominent women British writers, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (published in the magazine Household Words between 1854 and 1855), and Middlemarch by George Eliot (published in part-issues between 1871 and 1872). Through examination of both secondary sources as well as letters, diaries and notes from the authors themselves, I will address how the social conditions of mid-nineteenth century Victorian women may have shaped the way they crafted their novels and their female protagonists. I am also interested in exploring how the technology of the day – in this case the creation of these novels in a serialized framework which inevitably demanded attention to the feedback from both publisher and public – distinctively affected these women authors.

I will argue that the socioeconomic climate of the time simultaneously granted more opportunities for women at the same time that it increased their awareness of their second-class citizenship – made especially apparent by the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867, which granted more male English citizens the franchise, while denying it to women. While recent scholarship has pointed to the active ways in which women have addressed this challenge, I will instead turn to their psychological experience. I will claim that this created a bittersweet experience in women writers of this period, which is felt in their experience of publishing in parts through their relationships with male publishers, and is made manifest in the female heroines of these novels, who are sadly aware of the forces curtailing their ambitions.

Subject

Nineteenth-century English History
Victorian Novels
George Eliot
Elizabeth Gaskell

Publisher

Simmons University (Boston, Mass.)

Format

1 PDF (61 Pages)

Language

English

Type

Masters Theses

Potential Collection

History