annotated bibliography and proposal samples

Josie Wales
Victorian Literature
12 March 2010
Proposal Topic:
The concept of the Victorian femme fatale in Madame Beck as compared the emergence of the New Woman in Lucy Snow (as a precursor to the New Woman) serves as an illustration of unrest among Victorian women in literature and society. In Victorian society women were evaluated by their role in the domestic sphere and how men became their personal connection to the outside world. Adversely it was the same parallel that prevent men from undersatnding the domestic sphere due to their obligations to the outside world, ie work, law and society. In looking at Lucy Snow we see a character that merges or blurs rather the lines of the domestic and societal line by being a woman but functioning as a school teacher for the public. It is her wisdom of both realms that provides insight to her inabilty to connect with a permanent realtionship and cause her to fall into both spheres, making it impossible for her to marry. Through the following research it is evident that the concept of cosmopolitianism in Victorian society played a key role in dictating  the roles of men and women as well as their relationships to each other. (Other possible connections: Dorothea, Middlemarch and Miss Wade and possibly Fanny, in Little Dorrit)

Annotated Bibliography

Caird, Mona.  “From Marriage.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature:
The Victorian Age. Eigth Edition, Stephen Greenbladt and M.H. Abrams, et. al.
New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006. 1602-1605. Print.
Caird begins by denouncing marriage in its current terms (1888) and suggests, “ideal marriage, despite all dangers and difficulties, should be free” (1602). She continues to discuss that the trend of marriage for women at the time focused primarily on financial stability and economic need to survive. She suggests changing this philosophy by educating men and women on gender roles, which would gradually change society’s views on marriage and each other. In doing so, all would prosper, divorce rates would go down and society as a whole would become more enlightened.
Caird’s views and theories on marriage contribute to the idea of the New Woman and the move away from marital dependence for the Victorian woman.
Eliot, George. “Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstencraft.” The Norton Anthology of
English Literature: The Victorian Age. Eigth Edition, Stephen Greenbladt and
M.H. Abrams, et. al.New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006. 1337-1342. Print.
Eliot compares Margaret Fuller’s discussion on Women in the Nineteenth Century as compared to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Rights of Women. She contrasts that despite the difference of nearly eighty years between the two writings the sentiments seem to be the same that a woman should be able to have her own mind and it be considered valid and unselfish. Elliot also points out that despite the controversy surrounding Wollstonecraft; she seems to be the more pragmatic writer, focusing directly on the reality those women of the nineteenth century face as opposed to Fuller’s distinctly American approach that is more literary.
This piece establishes a female author’s perspective on women and marriage during the nineteenth century to add authority to my argument.
Hedgecock, Jennifer. The Femme Fatale in Victorian Literature: The Dangerous and the
Sexual Threat.New York:Cambria Press, 2008. 1-47. Print.
The author focuses on the emergence of the Femme Fatale in Victorian literature and the need for the character to assert her independence through manipulation of men or rejection of societal boundaries. The femme fatale often characterized as the fallen woman is easily seduced and tries to improve her position by marriage. Hedgecock compares the differences between the concept of the Femme Fatale and the New Woman as a progression in writing and authorship toward the later end of the 19th century.
The book/research is important to my argument for the clear and concise definitions given for both the New Woman and the femme fatale as represented in Victorian Literature.
Kreilkamp, Ivan. “Unuttered: Withheld Speech and Female Authorship in ‘Jane Eyre’
and ‘Vilette.’ NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 32, No. 3, Victorian Fiction
after New Historicism (Summer, 1999), pp. 331-354. Duke University Press.23 Mar. 2011. Online.
Kreilkamp explores the “disembodied and impersonal” in Bronte’s fiction as a means of quiet dissimilitude and progress in public through the “unutterance” of her characters, suggesting a powerful authorship “of professional writing in the service of women” (332). He goes on to explain that Bronte differs from her male contemporaries by rejecting the storytelling as a stage for the masses but rather uses “fiction that denies the connection between the words on a page and an embodied voice” (332). She focuses on inward privacy and powerfully questions the world around her. Kreilkamp focuses on the idea of Bronte withholding speech in order to affect the reader more poignantly to the importance of the situation, “the heroine comes into her own only as she turns from speech to writing” (338).
Kreilkamp’s discussion supports my idea to proffer Lucy as a character that attempts to reach out to the masses by her actions, rather than her speeches.
Nightingale, Florence.  “From Cassandra.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature:
The Victorian Age. Eigth Edition, Stephen Greenbladt and M.H. Abrams, et. al.
New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006. 1598-1601. Print.
The selection discusses hardily and ironically, that “time” is the most prevalent menace for women. It is time that mocks women, and when time is gone questions what they have actually accomplished. Nightingale also poses the question, “Is a man’s time more valuable than a woman’s?” (1600). She questions a woman’s desire to learn and be accomplished and yet society seemed to readily accept that woman be idle whereas society would see this same idleness in men as ridiculous. She continues by insisting that marriage is false as well.
I find her description of marriage and independence through education to be insightful evidence into what a Victorian woman would have experienced and questioned day to day as her role in society.