Date of Thesis

2010

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Department

English

First Advisor

Virginia Lee-Alice Zimmerman

Abstract

"Psychological Real Estate: Fractured Female Identity in the Victorian Novel" examines the use of domestic space in three Victorian novels, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847), Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret (1862), and George Eliot's Middlemarch (1871-2). Because Victorian gender identity was conceived of in spatial terms, this thesis explores how the three female authors use complicated domestic environments to engage the problem of conventional Victorian femininity. In the Victorian mindset, a woman's place is confined to the home, or private sphere; however, even the private sphere is intruded upon by public spaces. Expected to conform to the Victorian formulation of femininity in public spaces within the home, women had only their private spaces to cultivate the unique, individualistic aspects of their selves. This thesis explores the ways in which the female protagonists negotiate these gender encoded spaces to argue that because Victorian women had to maintain separate and often disparate identities within domestic space, their identities became problematically fractured. Additionally, in each of these texts, the authors use the failure or loss of the estate, the structure which rigidly upholds the gendered binaries, to expose the harm such fracturing identity formulation caused for Victorian society as a whole. This thesis concludes by examining the final residences of the female characters and arguing that the authors use these final private spaces to assert more feminist re-envisionings of their society's construction of femininity.

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