Sisters: Relation and Rescue in Nineteenth-century British Novels and Paintings

Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1995 - 187 sivua
Author Michael Cohen has found in nineteenth-century British paintings and novels depicting sisters a persistent attempt to subvert a stereotypical construction of women - that which neatly divides all women into either whores or "respectable" women. In many paintings and novels, a female transformation of heroic myth opposes the "necessary whore" of this construction with an attempt to erase the sexual difference between the sisters. The agency of this erasure is a heroic rescue of one sister by the other. In both arts the subject of female rescue is resisted and contested.
In painting, Cohen discusses evidence for the attempt at erasure of difference in pictures which make the sexually wayward woman and her respectable counterpart similar or identical in appearance. The important female rescue picture does not get painted but is only approached by painters at midcentury. Part of the evidence is the otherwise puzzling ubiquity of twinned women in Victorian painting.
In novels, the struggle to erase the difference between women whose sexual experience differs started early. Cohen demonstrates that difference and likeness among sisters was first fully exploited by Austen and Ferrier. In Dickens and Collins, the author has found a retrograde movement in the trend toward erasure of women's sexual difference elsewhere apparent. Dickens magnifies sexual difference between women in his families. Collins makes use of sensational displacements of the respectable woman by a counterpart who is stained in some way - if not by prostitution then by the taint of illegitimacy. In both writers, sexual difference between pairs of women is highlighted rather than effaced. Finally, in the sisters novels of Meredith, Gaskell, and Eliot, this study shows that there are rescues performed by sisters and the transformation of male characters into figurative sisters of the protagonists.

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Defining Sisters Augustus Eggs The Travelling Companions and the Grammar of Sisterhood
Demythologizing Reynolds Painting ModernLife Sisters
Painted Women and Unpainted Pictures Secularizing the Imagery of Sisterhood
LookingGlass Arts Connecting Paintings and Novels
First Sisters in Ferrier Austen and Scott
Sisters in the Perturbed Families of Dickens
LookingGlass Women Rescue and Displacement in Collins
Sisters Sexual Difference and the Underclass in Merediths Rhoda Fleming
Healthy Relations Nursing Sisters in Gaskells Every Day Stories
Reform and Rescue in Middlemarch 1872

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