Female Sexuality in French Naturalism and Realism, and British New Woman Fiction, 1850 – 1900
Date: 19 December 2012
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in English
The Victorian need to compartmentalise and define women’s sexuality in terms of opposing binaries was paralleled by the vague idea that the period’s French and British literatures were at odds with one another. Elucidating the deep connections between, and common concerns shared by, French Naturalist and Realist and British New Woman ...
The Victorian need to compartmentalise and define women’s sexuality in terms of opposing binaries was paralleled by the vague idea that the period’s French and British literatures were at odds with one another. Elucidating the deep connections between, and common concerns shared by, French Naturalist and Realist and British New Woman authors, this thesis shatters the dichotomies that attempted to structure and define women’s sexuality in the mid- to late- nineteenth century. The thesis focusses on novels and short stories by French authors Émile Zola and Guy de Maupassant, and New Woman authors Sarah Grand, Ménie Muriel Dowie and Vernon Lee. In a time during which the feminist movement was gaining momentum, and female sexuality was placed at the heart of a range of discourses, and scrutinised from a number of different angles – not only in literature, but in medicine, psychology, sexology, criminology – the consideration of the female sexual self and her subjectivity brings together the work of authors whose oeuvres have been largely considered as antithetical. Previous work has indeed shown the centrality of female sexuality to both literatures, yet never compared them. This thesis rediscovers the significance of both literatures’ investment in a discourse revolving around female sexuality by contrasting the French male authors with the British female writers, and uncovering unexpected parallels in their claims about the contemporary situation of women. Simone de Beauvoir’s Le Deuxième Sexe’s feminist philosophy frames the thesis’s comparative analysis, questioning and re-examining these authors’ representations of female sexuality. The ideas of sensuality and rationality, motherhood, reproduction, marriage, and prostitution thus become recurring concerns throughout it. The thesis’s first chapter considers the female as sexual subject and/or object of the male gaze, in a range of New Woman and French literature. The second and third chapters are organised around the themes of marriage and prostitution, and the final chapter considers issues of female sexuality within the fantastic short story.
Item views 0
Full item downloads 0