Fables of Ownership: Women, Property and the Form of Victorian Fiction argues through readings of fictional and non-fictional texts and visual images that property is a decisive undercurrent in narrative structures and modes, and an important gender signature in Victorian culture and fiction. Paying close attention to the issues it raises for the question of m e n in feminism, the study focuses upon exchanges in the Victorian novel between patriarchal cultural authority, the "woman question", and narrative form, and demonstrates how convergences of gender and property relations inform novelistic structure. It isolates and analyzes a key set of connections—between w o m e n and ownership, women and narrative representation, and women and identity. It looks at the relationships between femininity and selfhood implied in, and coercively maintained by, theories of property which Victorian society inherited, modified, and advanced.
The thesis proceeds by identifying themes and structures of possession and dispossession in texts in which a w o m a n owns or controls, or in the course of the plot inherits, acquires, or loses property. From this central motif, however, it broadens to consider the influence of property relations upon the formulation and maintenance of male and female sexual identity in Victorian culture as a whole, and the novel in particular. As its framework, the study takes in each chapter one aspect of property and fictional form and expands from it to consider how the work of each author bears upon the central hypothesis. It looks, in turn, at women, narration, and objects in Cranford; territoriality and female authorship in Shirley; intellectual property and female authorship in George Eliot; maps and narrative form in Hardy; and displacement and fictional discourse in Villette and Diana of the Crossways.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Publication status||Unpublished - 1993|