PL EN


2012 | 47 | 1 | 47-60
Article title

Needles, China Cups, Books, and the Construction of the Victorian Feminine Ideal in Rhoda Broughton’S Not Wisely, but too Well and Elizabeth Gaskell’S North and South

Title variants
Languages of publication
EN
Abstracts
EN
Considering Victorian presentation of women as angelic, that is, spiritual, beings, it is rather surprising how much their presence was manifested by material objects. Baskets of needlework, tea equipage and novels lying around in a parlour were an unmistakable sign of the house being occupied by women. Indeed, my contention is, the objects did not clutter Victorian interiors, either real or imagined, merely for practical reasons or to produce the “reality effect.” They are a material representation of the immaterial and function as metaphors for angelic women’s spiritual qualities. Rather than functioning merely as details to enhance the illusion of the real (and thus as elements of style) or simply reflecting the Victorian world (and thus as empty forms), material objects are essential in constructing a middle-class (feminine) identity. My paper concentrates on Rhoda Broughton’s Not wisely, but too well and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South with an attempt to show how objects help construct a feminine ideal and, simultaneously, reveal the ideal to be just a construction. Broughton’s Kate Chester and Gaskell’s Margaret Hale find themselves in situations where their middle-class status might be compromised. Still, they both manage to reassert their position through effectively manipulating the signs of middle-class respectability. The “flimsy and useless” things they surround themselves with point to their “essentially feminine” qualities. Yet, the very superfluity of the objects reveals their relation to the characters’ economic status. They are, then, the site where the material and immaterial meet, where the borders between the economic world and the domestic world blur.
Keywords
Publisher
Year
Volume
47
Issue
1
Pages
47-60
Physical description
Dates
published
2012-04-01
online
2013-03-27
Contributors
  • Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań
References
  • Broughton, Rhoda [1867] 1967 Not wisely, but too well. (Edited by Herbert van Thal.) London: Cassell.
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth [1850] 1998 North and South. (Edited by Angus Easson.) Oxford: Oxford University Press. Eliot, George [1857] 1994 Scenes of clerical life. (Edited by Graham Handley.) London: J.M. Dent. [1857] 1994 “Mr Gilfil’s love story”, in: Scenes of clerical life. London: J.M. Dent, 75-193.
  • Patmore, Coventry 1866 The angel in the house. London - Cambridge: Macmillan Press.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre 1984 Distinction. A social critique of the judgement of taste. (Translated by Richard Nice.) Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press. 1986 “The forms of capital”, in: John G. Richardson (ed.), 241-258.
  • Craik, Dinah Maria Mulock [1858] 1997 A woman’s thoughts about women. London: Hurst and Blackett. http://www.indiana.edu/~letrs/vwwp/craik/thoughts.html Date of access: 13 Mar. 2008.
  • Gilbert, Pamela K. 1997 Disease, desire, and the body in Victorian women’s popular novels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ingham, Patricia 1996 The language of gender and class. Transformation in the Victorian novel. London - New York: Routledge.
  • Langland, Elizabeth 1995 Nobody’s angels. Middle-class woman and domestic ideology in Victorian culture.
  • Ithaca - London: Cornell University Press.
  • Lindner, Christoph 2000 “Outside looking in: Material culture in Gaskell’s industrial novels”, Orbis Literaturum 55/5: 379-396.
  • Logan, Thad 2001 The Victorian parlour. A cultural study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Loudon, John C. [1839] 2007 An encyclopædia of cottage, farm, and villa architecture and furniture. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans. http://dlxs2.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=cdl;idno=cdl153 Date of access: 10 Mar. 2008.
  • Maitzen, Rohan Amanda 1998 Gender, genre and Victorian historical writing. New York - London: Garland Publishing.
  • Richardson, John G. 1986 Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. New York: Greenwood Press.
  • Sigmond, George G. [1839] 2007 Tea, its effects, medicinal and moral. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman’s. (Retrieved from Google Books.) Date of access: 17 Jan. 2007.
  • Stone, Elizabeth [1840] 2007 The art of needlework, from the earliest ages; including some notices of the ancienthistorical tapestries. (2nd edition.) London: Henry Colburn. http://www.archive.org/details/artofneedleworkf00stoniala Date of access: 30 Apr. 2007.
Document Type
Publication order reference
Identifiers
YADDA identifier
bwmeta1.element.doi-10_2478_v10121-010-0019-0
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