AbstractsWomens Studies


This thesis explores representations of woman in four selected texts: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’ (1842), Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ (1862), and George Egerton’s ‘The Spell of the White Elf’ and ‘A Shadow’s Slant’ (1893). There are primarily two general, and contrasting, images of how the Victorian woman was constructed in Victorian literature. The angel in the house was the ideal woman, selfless, pure and fragile. The rebel was the angel’s antithesis, and the one who violated the expectations of Victorian ideologies. From a feminist perspective, these images were historically among the chief obstacles as women attempted to write. In order to be able to write freely about the female experience, they needed to understand and then refuse the cultural images assigned to them by patriarchal society. Feminist critics argue that if we study these images of women, we will not learn what women have felt or experienced: on the contrary, we will learn what men have thought women to be. My aim is to detect how the female characters in these texts are constructed as the angel and the rebel, and to show how literature might both affirm and complicate these stereotypical images. The thesis consists of three chapters, where chapter one and chapter two explore the image of the angel and the rebel. The third chapter investigates the texts on two levels. First, it explores to how and to what extent the female characters are aware of their situation or social position. Secondly, it discusses what the endings of the texts may suggest as a next step for the Victorian woman. The method of analysis is close reading. As an overall framework for the subject of study, the introduction provides a brief account of the authors, the Victorian period, and feminist theory. Although this is not primarily a study of comparison, the conclusion briefly accounts for similarities and differences between the texts.