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ENGL410: The Victorian Novel

Unit 3: The Woman Question: Gender and the Victorian Novel   Victorian novels often represent and explore deeply complicated and interconnected social worlds. In this unit of the course, we will investigate the complexity of gender in the Victorian novel. This was a period of enormous change, and though women were granted additional rights, they lived and worked in a patriarchal society that expected them to be, primarily, wives and mothers. The marriage plot is therefore an important component of these novels, but novelists also used their work to challenge gender roles and expectations. In the following, we will look at gender and work, gender and politics, gender in the home, and gender in sensation novels. We will conclude the unit with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White.

Guiding Questions:

  • Why did men and women inhabit separate spheres? Why were men in the public and women in the private sphere?
  • How did the woman question relate to social policies? In what ways was it addressed or represented in fiction?
  • We addressed women’s work earlier in the course. In what ways did women’s work (in private, as governesses, as wives/mothers) make them potentially vulnerable? In what ways did it affect their ability to speak out against things that were wrong?
  • In Bleak House, emotion and sympathy are used to influence the reader’s feelings about social policy. How do sensation novels use emotional effect? Is it used for different purposes?

Unit 3 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: Completing this unit should take you approximately 43 hours.

☐   Subunit 3.1: 1 hour

☐   Subunit 3.2: 19.25 hours

☐   Subunit 3.3: 15 minutes

☐   Subunit 3.4: 1.5 hours

☐   Subunit 3.5: 21 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- describe the concepts of separate spheres and discuss the difference between public and private worlds of men and women; - explain what is meant by angel in the house or the woman as the moral center of the home; - identify the characteristics of fallen, new, and femme fatale women in Victorian Britain; - list the ways in which a governess’s class and working position made her vulnerable; - define the parameters of “The Woman Question”; and - identify characteristics of the sensation novel and discuss is reliance upon emotional effect.

3.1 Gender and Work: Understanding Separate Spheres   3.1.1 Victorian Sexuality   - Reading: The Victorian Web: Dr. William A. Cohen’s “Sex, Scandal, and the Novel” Link: The Victorian Web: Dr. William A. Cohen’s “Sex, Scandal, and the Novel” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the article above.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/gender/wac.html).

3.1.2 Separate Spheres   - Reading: The Victorian Web: Timothy Farrell’s “Separate Spheres: Victorian Constructions of Gender in Great Expectations” Link: The Victorian Web: Timothy Farrell’s “Separate Spheres: Victorian Constructions of Gender in Great Expectations” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the short introduction to the spheres as it
relates to another of Dickens novels: Great Expectations.  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take you 10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/ge/farrell2.html).
  • Reading: The Victorian Web: Meredith Moore’s “Private vs. Public: Female Sexuality in Victorian Culture” Link: The Victorian Web: Meredith Moore’s “Private vs. Public: Female Sexuality in Victorian Culture” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article about the public and private spheres and their effect on sexuality.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

3.1.3 The Governess in Victorian Fiction   - Reading: The Victorian Web: Dr. Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros’ “The Victorian Governess Novel” Link: The Victorian Web: Dr. Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros’ “The Victorian Governess Novel” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read Dr. Lecaros’ essay on the Victorian Governess
novel.  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 10
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/gender/wadso2.html).
  • Reading: The Victorian Web: Benjamin Grave’s “Desire, Class Position, and Gender in Jane Eyre and Pickwick Papers” Link: The Victorian Web: Benjamin Grave’s “Desire, Class Position, and Gender in Jane Eyre and Pickwick Papers” (HTML)

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

3.2 Case Study in the Victorian Novel 3: Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre   - Reading: The Victorian Web: Dr. Marianne Thormahlen’s “The Brontë Pseudonyms: A Woman's Image – The Writer and Her Public” Link: The Victorian Web: Dr. Marianne Thormahlen’s “The Brontë Pseudonyms: A Woman's Image – The Writer and Her Public” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the first three paragraphs of the Victorian
Web’s version of Dr. Thormahlen’s essay on the Brontë.  
 Reading this text and taking notes should take 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/thormahlen.html).
  • Reading: The Project Gutenberg: “Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte” Link: The Project Gutenberg:Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Pay special attention to the class and gender concerns of the novel, particularly the vulnerable position of working women.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 19 hours.

    Terms of Use: The article above is in the Public Domain.

3.3 Gender and Politics: The Woman Question   3.3.1 Legal Concerns   - Reading: The Victorian Web: “Timeline of Legislation, Events, and Publications Crucial to the Development of Victorian Feminism” Link: The Victorian Web: “Timeline of Legislation, Events, and Publications Crucial to the Development of Victorian Feminism” (HTML)

 Instructions: Review the list of legislative acts concerning
gender.  

 Reading this text should take you 5 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/history/wmhisttl.html).
  • Reading: The Victorian Web: “Josephine Butler” Link: The Victorian Web: “Josephine Butler” (HTML)

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 5 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Victorian Web: “Helena Wojtczak” Link: The Victorian Web:“Helena Wojtczak” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this short introduction to the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 5 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

3.4 Gender in the Home: The Woman Question   3.4.1 New Women vs “Women of England”   - Reading: The Victorian Web: Dr. Andrzej Diniejko’s “The New Woman Fiction” Link: The Victorian Web: Dr. Andrzej Diniejko's “The New Woman Fiction” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read to the conclusion, paying special attention to
the New Woman Novelists and their aims.  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take you 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/gender/diniejko1.html).
  • Reading: Internet Archive: Chapter 1, Sarah Stickney Ellis’s “The Women of England: Their Social Duties and Domestic Habits Link: Internet Archive: Chapter 1, Sarah Stickney Ellis’s “The Women of England: Their Social Duties and Domestic Habits” (HTML)

        Instructions: This was a popular work in the mid-19thcentury about the expectations for women as the moral center of the home. This document, from 1843, is in the public domain and no longer under copyright. Open the document in one of the readers available on the left (such as “read online”). Read the first chapter of Ellis’s work. Think about how her insistence on women’s importance to the “hearth and home” differs from the New Woman’s desire for greater sphere of influence.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 40 minutes.

    Terms of Use: The article above is in the Public Domain. It is attributed to Sarah Stickney Ellis and the original can be found here.

3.4.2 Gender and Sensation Fiction   - Reading: The Victoria Web: Dr. Philip V. Allingham’s “The Victorian Sensation Novel, 1860–1880: Preaching to the Nerves Instead of the Judgment” Link: The Victoria Web: Dr. Philip V. Allingham’s “The Victorian Sensation Novel, 1860–1880: Preaching to the Nerves Instead of the Judgment” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read Dr. Allingham’s essay on sense and sensation in
the Victorian novel.  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take you 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/genre/sensation.html).
  • Reading: The Victorian Web: Philip V. Allingham’s “Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835–1915), the ‘Queen of Sensation’ – Life and Works” Link: The Victorian Web: Philip V. Allingham’s “Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835–1915), the ‘Queen of Sensation’ – Life and Works” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article, paying special attention to the way gender influences the creation of sensation fiction. Note that the titular character of Wilkie Collins’ Woman in Whiteis also female – as are, in fact, two of the primary characters in the plot.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 20 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

3.5 Case Study in the Victorian Novel 4: Wilkie Collins Woman in White   - Reading: The Project Gutenberg: “The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins” Link: The Project Gutenberg: “The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read Project Gutenberg’s version Wilkie Collins’ *The
Woman in White*. What does this novel tell us about market relations
in Victorian England? In what ways does this novel reflect gender
relations of this period? How are the vulnerabilities of women made
evident in the text? In what ways is this a sensation novel?  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take you 20 hours.  

 Terms of Use: The article above is in the Public Domain.
  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “ENGL 410 Subunit 3.5 Discussion Forum” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “ENGL 410 Subunit 3.5 Discussion Forum”

    Instructions: Spend a few minutes reflecting on the novel and also the works describing women’s work and the Woman Question. What do Jane Eyre and Woman in White tell us about women’s vulnerable position? In what ways are they powerless? In what ways are they empowered? Then, share your thoughts on the discussion forum by clicking the link above and creating a (free) account, if you have not already done so. Read responses that other students may have left and leave any comments you have on their feedback as well.

    Posting and responding to comments should take approximately 1 hour.