"This original and pertinent book brings insights of Foucault, Lacan, historical research, deconstruction, and feminist theory to bear on important questions about women and confession. . . . Framed by a carefully articulated set of theoretical assumptions, Bernstein's subtle readings of canonical (Villette, Daniel Deronda, and Tess) and noncanonical (Lady Audley's Secret) novels offer answers, albeit complex and contingent ones, to these questions. Her analyses will change the way we read these texts, not to mention the way we understand contemporary instances of confessing women, from Susan Smith and Tonya Harding to the feminist critics whose self-disclosures become the objects as well as the subjects of their own writing."Robyn R. Warhol, University of Vermont
Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Cultureby Susan David Bernstein, Susan D. Bernstein
Susan Bernstein examines the gendered power relationships embedded in confessional literature of the Victorian period. Exploring this dynamic in Charlotte Bronta's Villette, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, she argues that although women's disclosures to male confessors repeatedly depict wrongdoing committed against them, they themselves are viewed as the transgressors. Bernstein emphasizes the secularization of confession, but she also places these narratives within the context of the anti-Catholic tract literature of the time. Based on cultural criticism, poststructuralism, and feminist theory, Bernstein's analysis constitutes a reassessment of Freud's and Foucault's theories of confession. In addition, her study of the anti-Catholic propaganda of the mid-nineteenth century and its portrayal of confession provides historical background to the meaning of domestic confessions in the literature of the second half of the century.
Originally published in 1997.
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What People are Saying About This
A richly interdisciplinary work on an important topic, a text from which scholars interested in gender, power, and Victorian domesticity will surely profit.--Victorian Studies
Meet the Author
Susan David Bernstein is associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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