Escaping the Women's Sphere in Neo-Victorian Literature



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Neo-Victorian literature carries with it the inherent need to transform and reinterpret the past in order to free its characters from the stifling rules of the nineteenth century. As a result, the predetermined roles are abandoned in favour of unconventionality, happiness and, in some cases, deviancy. Peter Ackroyd's novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem explores what happens when the main heroine refuses only to portray a woman's role, and instead, Elizabeth Cree seeks freedom. Some of the roles that significantly affect the formation of her character are that of a daughter, a music hall performer, a wife, and a cross-dressing murderer. Sarah Waters's novel Tipping the Velvet is another work that explores the love of the performative and the opportunities it creates for previously overlooked characters. Just like in Ackroyd's work, the main heroine Nancy Astley manages to explore her desires through cross-dressing and deceit. This presentation focuses on the liberation that the mentioned characters achieve thanks to their refusal to embody a limiting role of a Victorian woman. It argues that by occupying both spheres – male and female – they can freely explore their possibilities and arrive at a more authentic and well-rounded image of who they are.
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