McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Daniel P. Watkins
Barrett Browning, Braddon, Jewsbury, revision, Victorian woman writer
This dissertation investigates the vital role of the private female reading experience in the creation of the mid-Victorian British woman writer's authorial persona. In particular, I examine the role of the female redactor, a woman writer who revises a particular text, genre, or convention within a patriarchal literary tradition. The public and private contexts of the female redactor become imperative to the text that she creates, for the final narrative product is not only a public revision but also a series of private, gendered negotiations that define the woman writer and determine her contribution to female authorship.
With a specific focus on Geraldine Jewsbury, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, I closely examine the ways in which these female redactors invoke and challenge male-authored texts within an established patriarchal literary tradition in order to create for themselves a distinctly female literary identity. Chapter One centers on Geraldine Jewsbury's feminist revision of Thomas Carlyle's gospel of work in her novel The Half Sisters (1848), in which Jewsbury emphasizes the importance of women's work in Victorian England. Chapter Two explores the manner in which Elizabeth Barrett Browning--inspired by John Donne's Songs and Sonets (1633) in her own Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)--engages in a gendered revision of the Petrarchan sonnet, both in content and form, in order to represent realistically the complex poetic place of woman as desiring subject, desired object, and empowered female poet. Chapter Three examines Mary Elizabeth Braddon's The Doctor's Wife (1864), in which Braddon aims to subvert critical understandings of high and low literary culture that dismiss the value of both the female consumer and the sensation genre. I conclude with a brief epilogue, which focuses on two contemporary revisions of nineteenth-century female-authored texts: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Jane Slayre. These co-authored revisions of classic nineteenth-century texts, which simultaneously lampoon and pay homage to nineteenth-century female authorship, highlight the importance not only of revision as a narrative strategy for constructing authorial identity but also of a nineteenth-century female literary tradition that mid-Victorian female redactors aimed to establish.
Phillips, A. (2011). Private Reader, Public Redactor: Narrative Strategies of the Nineteenth-Century Female Revisionist (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1043