Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing
This important interdisciplinary study traces transformations in Victorial historical writing that made possible new ways of thinking about and representing women in history. Combining literary history with cultural studies and feminist historiography, it examines a wide array of essays and reviews from Victorian periodicals to provide the terms and context for innovative readings of George Eliot's novels Romola and Middlemarch and of a range of nineteenth-century historical works, including works by and about women that are discussed extensively here for the first time. The blurring of boundaries between historical and fictional narratives, stimulated by the enormous success of Walter Scott's novels, and the development of social history are shown to have been key factors in an uneven, controversial, but persistent feminization of history, the first because of the longstanding association of novels with women the second because social history focuses on the private sphere, traditionally women's domain. Along with the appearance of numerous historical texts written by women and taking women as their subjects, these developments challenged conventional beliefs about historical authority and relevance that had long relegated women to the margins, both literally and metaphorically. In its exploration of these changes and their implications, Gender and Victorian Historical Writing revises standard assumptions about Victorian ideas of history, finding an awareness of and experimentation with gender and genre that prefigure theoretical and scholarly concerns in contemporary women's history.
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