Date of Award

5-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

David F. Goslee

Committee Members

Allen Dunn, Nancy Moore Goslee, Cheryl Brown Travis

Abstract

Gender, Genre, and the Victorian Dramatic Monologue describes how female and male poets used the dramatic monologue to create a dialogue about gender and subjectivity. I first chart the evolution of the dramatic monologue by explaining changing Victorian literary critical values as evident in the use of the terms subjective and objective. As opposed to earlier literary interest in objectivity, later Victorian poets use the monologue to experiment with new subject positions, valuing individual perspectives most. I trace this pattern in the way Victorian poets across the period use the developing monologue to create often simultaneous and overlapping conversations about subjectivity. In the first conversation, poets such as Levy, Mew, and “Michael Field” (Bradley and Cooper) use the Magdalen figure to create a powerful subject position through the fusion of the sexualized and objectified female body and the embodiment of divine female power. In the second conversation, poets feature the prostitute as the ultimate example of an other consumed in an intimate, yet impersonal, relationship in order to explore whether individuals can achieve critical distance, the ability to observe and judge objectively, or whether observation requires a violent mastering of the other, turning the other into an object. Such poems include Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Jenny, Webster's A Castaway, and Browning's Fifine at the Fair. In the third conversation, Christina Rossetti and Mary Coleridge, among others like Hopkins, Swinburne, and “Field,” all experiment with the poetic genre to probe the very paradox at the core of this project—the abject position made subjectively powerful. In the fourth conversation, turn-of-the-century poets like Levy and Kendall create individual speakers with multiple subjectivities, and poets like Webster embrace similar multiplicity through allusive techniques that provide positions of power.

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