Dissertation

My dissertation project is tentatively titled “Household Management: Gender, Genre, and Nation in 19th Century British Domestic Literature”. “Household Management” takes its name from Isabella Beeton’s ubiquitous domestic guide The Book of Household Management, first published in 1861. Beeton’s initial text bloomed into an expansive brand of guides and her name became a byword for traditional British domestic values and separate spheres ideology. I examine four primary texts, Felicia Heman’s The Forest Sanctuary (1825), Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh (1856), Mary Shelley’s Falkner (1837), and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (1847), through the lens of “Household Management” to argue that these texts are all engaging in a conversation about how to manage the domestic in the face of ever changing conceptions of the boundaries of gender and nation. Beeton’s text is seen as definitive of its domestic genre, though it actually contains multiple modes that question its easy designation as such. Nineteenth-century British domestic literature, as a genre, has been criticized as a vehicle of imperialistic ideology that transmits ideas of British exceptionalism and gender and racial hierarchies. The four literary texts have also been variously categorized as domestic fiction; the generic multiplicity of these texts, though, results in contradictory notions of the roles that gender and concepts of British nationality play in domestic management.

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