Sisters in Time: Imagining Gender in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

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Asking why the 19th-century British novel features heroines, and how and why it features "feminine heroism," Susan Morgan traces the relationship between fictional depictions of gender and Victorian ideas of history and progress. Morgan approaches gender in selected 19th-century British novels as an imaginative category, accessible to authors and characters of either sex. Arguing that conventional definitions of heroism offer a fixed and history-denying perspective on life, the book traces a literary tradition that represents social progress as a process of feminization. The capacities for flexibility, mercy, and self-doubt, conventionally devalued as feminine, can make it possible for characters to enter history. She shows that Austen and Scott offer revolutionary definitions of feminine heroism, and the tradition is elaborated and transformed by Gaskell, Eliot, Meredith, and James (partly through one of his last "heroines," the aging hero of The Ambassadors.) Throughout the study, Morgan considers how gender functions both in individual novels and more extensively as a means of tracing larger patterns and interests, especially those concerned with the redemptive possibilities of a temporal and historical perspective.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The book bristles with startling suggestions: on George Eliot's developing vision of femininity, and the idea that Llambert Strether is 'feminised' at the end."—Notes and Queries

"Exhibiting many of the traits of scholarly writing at its best, her work reminds us that the closest readings can be rendered gracefully, that a prose style unencumbered by numerous citations can nevertheless reflect a thorough familiarity with current scholarship."—Victorian Studies

"[A] landmark study...Morgan's brilliant readings of novels by Austen, Scott, Gaskell, Eliot, Meredith, and James illuminate gender as an imaginative category....The study is witty and bold enough to make readers shout with pleasure. Recommended for every academic library."—Choice

"In a series of deft and original readings, Susan Morgan addresses one of the major questions, that has, until now, remained implicit in feminist literary criticism: If modern industrial England is a male-dominated society, then why is the English novel dominated by female characters?"—Nancy Armstrong, University of Minnesota

"A very large and ambitious project—lively, brilliant, controversial and sure to be widely influential. It is going to be important and unavoidable—no one in the field will be able to ignore it."—Robert M. Polhemus, Stanford University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195058222
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/1989
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Miami College
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Table of Contents

1. Imagining Gender in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction 3
2. Why There's No Sex in Jane Austen's Fiction 23
3. Old Heroes and a New Heroine in the Waverley Novels 56
4. Gaskell's Daughters in Time 83
5. Paradise Reconsidered: Eliot's Edens Without Eve 127
6. "Deeply a Woman, Dumbly a Poet": Language as Betrayal in Meredith's Later Fiction 162
7. The Feminine Heroic Tradition and Henry James 193
Notes 231
Index 251
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