Victorian Women’s Self-management in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda
|Keywords:||私利;《丹尼爾‧德隆達》;維多利亞時代女人;娛樂;婚姻;Self-interest;Daniel Deronda;Victorian women;leisure;marriage||Issue Date:||2011||Abstract:||
This thesis attempts to examine and theorize Gwendolen Harleth’s active intervention in her life characterized by incessant crises in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. Gwendolen, living under the influence of liberalism and self-help, aspired to take control of her life by speculating interests and risks. Representative of a prototypical female homo economicus (or economic woman), she manifested the ways capitalistic economy affects women in terms of the idea of self-interest. Incorporating this historical significance of such an awakening, the term “women’s self-management” used here is intended not only to distinguish women’s particular social position from men’s, but also to emphasize the aspect of her interaction with and perception of the material world.
I argue that Gwendolen perceives the public world and her identity in relation to the status of her self-interest. What I find is that Gwendolen epitomizes the advent of a group of new women in the mid-century, who were active supporters of their self-interest and against whom Victorian society in this period began to confront and venture to contain. As the narrative shows, the need to self-manage is triggered by Gwendolen’s perception of her impaired self-interest. While being acutely aware of her interest as an “individual woman,” Gwendolen also has to consider the risk of offending the conventional gender ideology that is quick to deny women’s material desires.
Featuring in the novel as two dominant sites of self-management, leisure and marriage provide rather opposite results of her effort. Resorting to what I call “economics of performing,” I believe Gwendolen constantly exploits the gender ideology to extract the value of her female body for her economic benefit. Whilst with leisure she is able to fulfill her desire through promoting her femininity, marriage on the other hand negates her marriageability and as a result her self-interest is forced to lapse into compromisation with the social norms. At the end of the novel, it is suggested that the marriage as governed by Victorian logic serves as the ultimate boundary for economic woman, whose self-interest must renounce marriage as its primary expression.
|Appears in Collections:||外國語文學系|
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