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The Victorian Governess Novel

Wadsö-Lecaros, Cecilia LU (1999)
Abstract (Swedish)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

Ämnet för min avhandling är den viktorianska guvernantromanen. I artonhundratalets England var arbetet som guvernant ett av de få yrken som stod öppna för medelklasskvinnor. Genom att arbetsförhållandena ofta var svåra, kom den samtida debatten om guvernanternas eländiga situation att bli livlig. Den stora mängd artiklar och böcker om deras låga löner, illa definierade arbetsuppgifter samt osäkra position i arbetsgivarens hem som publicerades bidrog säkerligen till uppkomsten av den fiktiva guvernantromanen. Avhandlingen visar att romanerna i många fall behandlar just de svårigheter som diskuterades i den samtida pressen. I genren karaktäriseras guvernanthjältinnan genom sitt utanförskap som... (More)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

Ämnet för min avhandling är den viktorianska guvernantromanen. I artonhundratalets England var arbetet som guvernant ett av de få yrken som stod öppna för medelklasskvinnor. Genom att arbetsförhållandena ofta var svåra, kom den samtida debatten om guvernanternas eländiga situation att bli livlig. Den stora mängd artiklar och böcker om deras låga löner, illa definierade arbetsuppgifter samt osäkra position i arbetsgivarens hem som publicerades bidrog säkerligen till uppkomsten av den fiktiva guvernantromanen. Avhandlingen visar att romanerna i många fall behandlar just de svårigheter som diskuterades i den samtida pressen. I genren karaktäriseras guvernanthjältinnan genom sitt utanförskap som beror på hennes speciella, och på den tiden motsägelsefulla, roll som yrkesverksam medelklasskvinna. Hon kontrasteras framför allt mot modern i familjen där hon arbetar och mot hushållets tjänstekvinnor. Romanerna fokuserar ofta på den rivalitet och de konflikter som uppstår mellan dessa olika kvinnor. Genom att guvernanten skildras som en idealkvinna vad gäller karaktär, bildning, och personlighet rymmer genren ofta en svidande samtidskritik av familjeliv, utbildning och religion. (Less)
Abstract
This thesis investigates the Victorian governess novel as a specific genre. A comprehensive set of nineteenth-century governess novels has been examined in relation to contemporary non-fictional sources dealing with governess work and female education. It is argued that by sharing many characteristics regarding presentations of social situations, rhetoric, and argument with the contemporary debate, the novels form part of that debate. A main theme in the genre is the marginalisation of the governess heroine, especially in relation to women around her. This intermediate position functions as a means of bringing the governess’s plight into focus, while supplying the writer with a framework for examining female development. The study has been... (More)
This thesis investigates the Victorian governess novel as a specific genre. A comprehensive set of nineteenth-century governess novels has been examined in relation to contemporary non-fictional sources dealing with governess work and female education. It is argued that by sharing many characteristics regarding presentations of social situations, rhetoric, and argument with the contemporary debate, the novels form part of that debate. A main theme in the genre is the marginalisation of the governess heroine, especially in relation to women around her. This intermediate position functions as a means of bringing the governess’s plight into focus, while supplying the writer with a framework for examining female development. The study has been organised according to the chronology found in most governess novels. The purpose is not only to show how similarly the novels are structured, but also to convey a picture of governess life as it is delineated in the genre. The introductory chapter presents the material and provides the historical background. Chapter 2 shows how the theme of sudden impoverishment and loss of status, which force the heroine to seek employment, is outlined in the genre. Difficulties in procuring a situation and the educational background of the heroine are also discussed. Chapter 3 focuses on governess employment, indicating the wide range of working conditions as presented in the novels. This chapter also addresses the issues of accommodation and salaries. Chapter 4 brings the governess into the schoolroom. Although there are not, in fact, many actual lessons in the novels, edification and concepts such as time management and efficiency permeate the genre. This chapter also discusses and criticises aspects of nineteenth-century female education that figure in the novels, especially the so-called accomplishments. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on more ideological issues in governess novels. Chapter 5 argues that it is the heroine, and not the children’s mother, who embodies motherliness and other aspects of the contemporary feminine ideal. Connected to the issue of maternity is the question of religion and religious instruction. Chapter 6 concentrates on the social position of the governess heroine. In words and in action, she is marginalised in relation to people who would have been her equals, had she not been a governess. The study closes with a brief Epilogue which shows that the characteristics of the Victorian genre of governess novels have to some extent been revived by the writers of modern romances. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
opponent
  • Professor Vargish, Thomas, Edinburgh
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Victorian governess, didactic fiction, education in literature, women and work in the nineteenth century, nineteenth-century English novel, marginalisation of women, female education in the nineteenth century, English language and literature, governesses in literature, Engelska (språk och litteratur)
pages
222 pages
publisher
English Studies
defense location
Lecture room 239 at the Department of English
defense date
1999-06-05 10:00
external identifiers
  • Other:ISRN: LUHSDF/HSEN -- 99/1027 -- SE + 222
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
c40618ed-fdf3-4c0a-8b44-b8f147d9b316 (old id 19247)
date added to LUP
2007-05-25 12:16:55
date last changed
2016-10-11 08:38:13
@misc{c40618ed-fdf3-4c0a-8b44-b8f147d9b316,
  abstract     = {This thesis investigates the Victorian governess novel as a specific genre. A comprehensive set of nineteenth-century governess novels has been examined in relation to contemporary non-fictional sources dealing with governess work and female education. It is argued that by sharing many characteristics regarding presentations of social situations, rhetoric, and argument with the contemporary debate, the novels form part of that debate. A main theme in the genre is the marginalisation of the governess heroine, especially in relation to women around her. This intermediate position functions as a means of bringing the governess’s plight into focus, while supplying the writer with a framework for examining female development. The study has been organised according to the chronology found in most governess novels. The purpose is not only to show how similarly the novels are structured, but also to convey a picture of governess life as it is delineated in the genre. The introductory chapter presents the material and provides the historical background. Chapter 2 shows how the theme of sudden impoverishment and loss of status, which force the heroine to seek employment, is outlined in the genre. Difficulties in procuring a situation and the educational background of the heroine are also discussed. Chapter 3 focuses on governess employment, indicating the wide range of working conditions as presented in the novels. This chapter also addresses the issues of accommodation and salaries. Chapter 4 brings the governess into the schoolroom. Although there are not, in fact, many actual lessons in the novels, edification and concepts such as time management and efficiency permeate the genre. This chapter also discusses and criticises aspects of nineteenth-century female education that figure in the novels, especially the so-called accomplishments. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on more ideological issues in governess novels. Chapter 5 argues that it is the heroine, and not the children’s mother, who embodies motherliness and other aspects of the contemporary feminine ideal. Connected to the issue of maternity is the question of religion and religious instruction. Chapter 6 concentrates on the social position of the governess heroine. In words and in action, she is marginalised in relation to people who would have been her equals, had she not been a governess. The study closes with a brief Epilogue which shows that the characteristics of the Victorian genre of governess novels have to some extent been revived by the writers of modern romances.},
  author       = {Wadsö-Lecaros, Cecilia},
  keyword      = {Victorian governess,didactic fiction,education in literature,women and work in the nineteenth century,nineteenth-century English novel,marginalisation of women,female education in the nineteenth century,English language and literature,governesses in literature,Engelska (språk och litteratur)},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {222},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0xa4d65b0)},
  title        = {The Victorian Governess Novel},
  year         = {1999},
}