Bad girls in corsets: Women and the transgressive body in the nineteenth century

Colleen Warwick Green, Purdue University

Abstract

Women, and their bodies, posed an increasing anxiety for Victorian society. Culturally and outwardly, the Victorian era strove to maintain a level of decorum that, increasingly, the nineteenth-century woman were, rebelling against. The urge for women to break through social barriers and constraints binding them to the century created a divergence in thought from the traditional mores of the past, in turn affecting the ways in which womens’ bodies were portrayed, displayed and manipulated by the authors and artists of the century. ^ As women entered actively entered into spaces once closed to them, they furthered the rift of uncertainty and discomfort. Importantly, critical attention must be paid to these social deviants, the transgressing women of the nineteenth century, those women who exist in the margins of the marginalized having broken not legal, but social contacts, of a century. Their placement in the margins of the marginalized attempts to erase them from the narrative of the century shutting them up, or away, or sometimes both. This project is motivated by two questions, 1) how transgressing women complicated and yet reflected the shifting narrative of a century and 2) how the treatment of the female body, in art and literature impacted the binds that continued to tie women to a domestic and patriarchal existence. These transgressive bodies deserve discussion and analysis, closely considering the spaces of power and agency they occupy and possess and further, provide, for women inside the fictional and factual narratives of the nineteenth century.^

Degree

Ph.D.

Advisors

Thomas Rickert, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Women's studies|English literature

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