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Paths of Resistance: Walking Women in Nineteenth-Century Literature

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posted on 2021-04-19, 00:00 authored by Trish Bredar

This dissertation seeks to recover a nineteenth-century British literary tradition of walking women. The nineteenth century was a crucial transitional period in which practices and meanings of mobility were being redefined. It also provided some of our most enduring cultural images of walking, most notably the Romantic peripatetic poet and the flâneur. Yet the intellectual and literary history of walking has remained stubbornly masculine, with women’s experience relegated to the margins. Paths of Resistance centers the walking woman as a pervasive figure and proto-feminist literary trope across the long nineteenth century (1778-1892). Exploring novels by Frances Burney, Charlotte Smith, Anne and Charlotte Brontë, Charlotte Yonge, and Elizabeth Gaskell and a robust collection of manuscript diaries, it identifies a shared investment in walking’s ability to assert, at least provisionally, a woman’s claim to an autonomous and cohesive sense of self. Although this form of self-assertion is closely associated with both male peripatetic theory and liberal thought, women writers are attuned to the embodied, situated, and uneven experiences of mobility in a way that is notably lacking in most peripatetic and liberal theory. However, while authors are typically attentive to the politics of mobility insofar as their female protagonists face resistance in securing their right to move freely, they tend to perpetuate or naturalize the exclusion of other, less privileged individuals from those same freedoms. In this way, women writers often expose one oft-critiqued aspect of liberal thought—that its endorsement of detachment neglected the situatedness and embodiedness of human experience—while often perpetuating another—that liberalism disavows its own violence and exclusivity.

History

Date Modified

2021-05-29

Defense Date

2021-04-09

CIP Code

  • 23.0101

Research Director(s)

Sara L. Maurer

Committee Members

Yasmin Solomonescu Barbara Green

Degree

  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Language

  • English

Alternate Identifier

1252974573

Library Record

6026162

OCLC Number

1252974573

Program Name

  • English

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