Cracked mirrors and petrifying vision: negotiating femininity as spectacle within the Victorian cultural sphere

Ireson, Lucinda (2014). Cracked mirrors and petrifying vision: negotiating femininity as spectacle within the Victorian cultural sphere. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Taking as its basis the longstanding alignment of men with an active, eroticised gaze and women with visual spectacle within Western culture, this thesis demonstrates the prevalence of this model during the Victorian era, adopting an interdisciplinary approach so as to convey the varied means by which the gendering of vision was propagated and encouraged. Chapter One provides an overview of gender and visual politics in the Victorian age, subsequently analysing a selection of texts that highlight this gendered dichotomy of vision. Chapter Two focuses on the theoretical and developmental underpinnings of this dichotomy, drawing upon both Freudian and object relations theory. Chapters Three and Four centre on women’s poetic responses to this imbalance, beginning by discussing texts that convey awareness and discontent before moving on to examine more complex portrayals of psychological trauma. Chapter Five unites these interdisciplinary threads to explore women’s attempts to break away from their status as objects of vision, referring to poetic and artistic texts as well as women’s real life experiences. The thesis concludes that, though women were not wholly oppressed, they were subject to significant strictures; principally, the enduring, pervasive presence of an objectifying mode of vision aligned with the male.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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