In the course of this seminar, we will look at how female fates, i.e. possible outlines of lives of females, are presented in Victorian women’s writing. We will approach this topic through the prism of gender studies by analysing how the lives of female characters in various literary genres are crafted in accordance with or in contrast to 19th-century ideals such as Coventry Patmore’s ”Angel in the House” or the concept of ‘fallenness’. These key concepts usually display stereotypical ideals rather than physical occurrences, yet we use them as helpful tools for our literary analyses. Whereas the ”Angel in the House” obeys the rules of her husband and limits the centre of her life to the domestic sphere as well as to household duties, the more emancipated and/or unmarried woman is frequently presented as a ‘fallen’ character in Victorian literature. The women’s movement of the later 19th century brought forth a variety of emancipated, self-governing, even radical female characters in literature often considered as ‘unwomanly’ due to certain character traits or sorts of behaviour. In this seminar, we will encounter female characters in several literary genres of Victorian women’s writing experiencing the most different fates, we will embed their personal stories within the larger historical and socio-political context of 19th-century Britain and discuss key ideas of the gender studies realm by means of their examples. Subsequently, we will challenge Deborah Anna Logan’s statement that females, during the course of the 19th century, could only chose to ”Marry, Stitch, Die, or Do Worse”.
Compulsory Reading: Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008 (Oxford World’s Classics Edition); Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008 (Oxford World’s Classics Edition); Wells, H.G. Ann Veronica. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2005 (Penguin Classics Edition); further reading will be available on GRIPS.
Requirements: active participation in class; oral presentation (20 min); term paper (8-10 pp.).