McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Character Types, Mind-Body, Performance, The Novel, Work
This project examines the psychosomatic heroine, a character type I observe emerging throughout the long eighteenth-century who responds to social, domestic, and personal pressures and stressors with mental and emotional preoccupations that lead to physiological symptoms. I demonstrate through close textual analysis that the psychosomatic heroine originates with Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and continues as a trope that Frances Burney’s Cecilia and The Wanderer, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion, and Geraldine Jewsbury’s The Half Sisters interrogate and transform. Like other heroine types, the psychosomatic heroine reveals sociocultural discourses that speak to what it means to be a woman in the long eighteenth-century. My project identifies, however, that unlike other heroine types, the psychosomatic heroine redefines ideas of women’s work in the eighteenth century. Rather than domestic work, maternal work, or professional work, the psychosomatic heroine demonstrates that the most important work a woman does is on and for herself: she must find a way to manage her mind-body reactions in order to present the necessary image that allows her to navigate her world.
Tavela, S. E. (2017). "What a Poor, Passive Machine": The Psychosomatic Heroine from Richardson to Austen (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/149