Sentimentalism and Marginality: Empathy and Empowerment for the Adult women in The Heir of Redclyffe, Jessica's First Prayer, and Misunderstood




Thornhill, Lisa

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In this thesis, I will examine the ways that three. Victorian women writers-Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901), Hesba Stretton (1823-1911), and Florence Montgomery (1843-1923)-worked out of their societal position to create texts that influenced a wide number of readers and even constructed their tastes. In chapter two, "General and Specific Circumstances Under Which Women Wrote in the Mid-Nineteenth Century," I will investigate the context surrounding Yonge, Stretton, and Montgomery. In chapter three, "Texts as Empowering Structures," I closely read the works to uncover messages that may have empowered readers through their characters, their actions, and their dialogues. In chapter four, "Victorian Reviews and the Construction of the Yonge Reader," I examine the reception of Yonge's work by depicting reviews from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. When we examine the use of pathos, sympathy, and tragedy in each of the stories, it is apparent that the genre of sentimentalism attracts a female readership because it examines underlying tensions within the culture, fulfills women's need for empowerment and empathy, and offers powerful solutions to subvert constraints through its subscription to metaphor and double discourse. Ultimately, I hope to prove that an enormous amount of transformative space exists within marginal discourse and that it is possible to attain power through nondominant methods of acquisition.



literature, women in literature, women and literature


Thornhill, L. (1999). Sentimentalism and marginality: empathy and empowerment for the adult women in The Heir of Redclyffe, Jessica's First Prayer, and Misunderstood (Unpublished thesis). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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