Advertisement

Frankenstein’s Monster: Lady Byron and Victorian Feminism

  • Diana Basham
Chapter
  • 49 Downloads

Abstract

In a well-known essay, Professions for Women (1942), Virginia Woolf chose to discuss two forms of inhibition commonly faced by women writers. According to Woolf, the first of these is easily dealt with. Its removal demands a murderous assault on ‘the Angel in the House’, a Victorian literary allusion here used to signify conformity to acceptably ‘feminine’ codes of discourse and behaviour. The second form of inhibition faced by women writers is less easily approached since it concerns a repressed knowledge of the female body and involves the articulation of tabooed subject matter. Writing in the 1930s, Woolf is still not prepared to approach this ‘Victorian’ inhibition directly. Instead, she mediates it through an imaginative exercise, saying to her reader: ‘I want you to imagine me writing a novel in a state of trance.’ Woolf’s trance-writer is described as ‘letting her imagination sweep unchecked round every rock and cranny of the world that lies submerged in the depths of our unconscious being’. Suddenly, she encounters a shock. In an experience familiar to Victorian ‘somnambules’ and ‘spirit-mediums’ when their productions and reveries were rudely interrupted, this entranced writer finds herself ‘in a state of the most acute and difficult distress’, because ‘she had thought of something, something about the body, about the passions which it was unfitting for her as a woman to say’.4

Keywords

Scarlet Fever Woman Writer Occult Power Literary Fiction Woman Question 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Charles Dickens, Bleak House (Signet Classics, 1964) p. 115.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mary Shelley, Frankenstein in Three Gothic Novels (Penguin, 1968) p. 412.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mary Wollstonecroft, An Historical and Moral View of the Origins and Progress of the French Revolution (London, 1794), p. 17.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘Professions for Women’, in Women and Writing (The Women’s Press, 1979) p. 61.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Ethel Colburn Mayne, The Life of Lady Byron (Constable, 1929), P. 5.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Eliza Lynn Linton, Preface to Witch Stories (Chapman & Hall, 1861), p. ivGoogle Scholar
  7. 16.
    Benjamin Disraeli, Vivian Grey Hughenden Edition (Longmans 1881), p. 140.Google Scholar
  8. 27.
    G. Wilson Knight, Lord Byron’s Marriage (R.K.P., 1957), pp. 278–79.Google Scholar
  9. 33.
    Barbara Greenfield, ‘The archetypal masculine: its manifestations in myth, and its significance for women’, in The Father: Contemporary Jungian Perspectives, (ed.) Andrew Samuels (London: Free Association Books, 1985), p. 197.Google Scholar
  10. 38.
    Janet Whitney, Elizabeth Fry (George Harrap & Co., 1937), p. 241.Google Scholar
  11. 47.
    See Hester Burton, Barbara Bodichon (John Murray, 1949), pp. 46–7.Google Scholar
  12. 49.
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh (Women’s Press, 1978), p. 214, lines 602–7.Google Scholar
  13. 52.
    Flora Tristan, London Journal 1840 (George Prior, 1980), pp. 198–99.Google Scholar
  14. 61.
    Margaret Alic, Hypatia’s Heritage (The Women’s Press, 1986), p. 159.Google Scholar
  15. 73.
    See Michael Sadleir, Blessington-D’Orsay: A Masquerade (Constable, 1933), p. 261.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Diana Basham 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Basham

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations