The Unveiling of Ellis Bell: Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
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Elaine Showalter’s 1977 work A Literature of Their Own explored, among other things, the Victorian double standard in periodical reviewing, which was particularly strong, she argued, from the 1840s to the 1860s. Women, she wrote, were thought “to possess sentiment, refinement, tact, observation, domestic expertise, high moral tone, and knowledge of female character; and thought to lack originality, intellectual training, abstract intelligence, humor, self-control, and knowledge of male character” (1977, p. 90).1 Carol Ohmann’s 1971 article “Emily Brontë in the Hands of Male Critics” argued that the reception of Wuthering Heights was dominated by sexual prejudice. One of the most recent biographies of Emily Brontë, a 1990 work by Katherine Frank, reiterates Ohmann’s emphasis on a sexual double standard in the reception of Wuthering Heights: “The sex of both Ellis and Currer Bell was almost as important to their early reviewers as the power of their stories. Indeed, a double standard clearly operated in the reactions to the novels” (1990, p. 237).
KeywordsDouble Standard Female Character Sexual Prejudice Gender Schema Sexual Double Standard
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