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Kimberley Reynolds and Nicola Humble here provide a radical revision of Victorian constructions of femininity. Using a wide range of textual examples (including children's literature, sensations fiction, diaries, and autobiography) as well as visual illustrations, Victorian Heroines offers a new look at the representation of women and sexuality in nineteenth-century literature and painting.
Arguing against the conventional dyadic model that interprets Victorian fiction in terms of a rigid distinction between the good and bad, the sexual and asexual woman, the authors suggest a more complex paradigm, simultaneously concealing and revealing contradictory attitudes to Victorian womanhood.
The book explores the highly erotic fantasy elements frequently found in widely disseminated orthodox female images, and effectively demonstrates how both male and female writers used similar techniques to subvert this orthodoxy. Drawing on contemporary critical and cultural theories, Victorian Heroines is a lucid and accessible analysis of the depiction of women during this period, challenging the prevalent views of recent decades.
|List of illustrations|
|Introduction: All dipt in angel instincts: Victorian heroines and the feminine ideal, or, ideal no more||1|
|Ch. 1||Purity or danger: Sexuality and the development of the Victorian girl||10|
|Ch. 2||The old woman in new clothes?: Sexual and body politics post-1848||38|
|Ch. 3||Sightless seers: Decadence and representations of femininity||62|
|Ch. 4||Strange sensations: The aberrant heroines of sensation fiction||98|
|Ch. 5||Private 'I's and 'I'-lessness: Autobiographical constructions of the feminine self||133|