Research Project Proposal

For this research project, I will be studying women fiction authors of 19th century England because I want to find out how they gained popularity in order to help my reader understand that the presence of women in literature was a positive force for the feminist movement.

Throughout the duration of my research experience, I hope to learn more about the publishing and circulation of female writing in Europe during this time period. I also expect to notice some correlations between the growing acceptance and popularity of female authors and the notable political and social achievements of the feminist movement. Hopefully, my research will help clarify the ways in which women in history have utilized fiction as a means for shaping a better future and will add credibility to fictional literature as an agent of social change.

The Victorian Era of England can be characterized by its ideas of “a kind of femininity which was centered on the family, motherhood and respectability” and the expectation that women remain domestic and passively accepting of the lack of political and social equality in existence. However, it was also the time in which women began to demand this equality (Abrams). Famous books published by females during this time period include Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre – which was printed under the pseudonym “Currer Bell” (Tompkins) – and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Since Victorian England saw the growing acceptance of women outside of the domestic sphere as well as the production of many of the classic works of female fiction with which we are all familiar, it is a particularly interesting time period to address in this research project. After all, a time period so fruitful with the struggles of social change is essential to my focus if I am to yield results that support my argument. While 20th century Britain is most famously recognized as the time period that gave rise to the major feminist movement (Murray), the 19th century was a time of growing discontent that was especially apparent in some of the fiction of the time.

For my research methods, I will draw on sources from internet and library databases as well as bibliographies from websites or journals. Some different forms of research documents that might be helpful could be large accounts of 19th century British publishing, historical review records of famous female literature, and diaries (if available). Journals or essays related to 19th century book history in England would probably yield research ideas as well from their bibliographies.

Some interesting looking online materials that I have found so far include the following:

–        Taken from the Reading Experience Database, this is a look at the response of the reader and critics of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. There are links within the article that attach directly to the RED.

–        A description of an exhibit from Duke University which is about 19th Century British women writers and includes some popular authors, a timeline of events, and other interesting content. What I’m most interested from this site is the bibliography it provides, which might prove to be a valuable resource.

–        I’m planning on using our own school’s library catalogue, but I also happened upon this one (again from Duke) while I was exploring the previous link. I think it might be useful because there are is a great number of full online texts available from here.

–        The following link has to do with 19th century English periodicals, which I thought might warrant some exploration to see if I could find book reviews or feminist periodicals.

–        This next database covers only from 1800-1829, but, as it describes, it is a compilation of data involving production, circulation, and reception of British fiction.

Timelines aren’t my strong suit, but if I’d attempt a guess, I would expect to incrementally work on the research aspect of this essay up until week 13. By the beginning of that week, I expect to be in a position where I have found a great deal of resources, have narrowed down those resources into what I feel is most important  towards my argument, and am confident that I have enough material to begin writing.

The weekend before week 13 (3/28/14-3/30/14) will be spent condensing my chosen data into graphs, tables, and other organizational tools for the data that I plan to represent in my essay. Afterwards, I will have until Tuesday, April 8 to complete the 8-10 pages of my essay and submit my rough draft.



Abrams, Lynn. “History Trails: Victorian Britain.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.



Murray, Jenni. “20th Century Britain: The Woman’s Hour.” BBC News. BBC, 3 Mar. 2011. Web. 14 Mar.

2014. <;

Tompkins, Joyce. “Charlotte Bronte (British Author).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia

Britannica, 6 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.



3 thoughts on “Research Project Proposal

  1. You seem to have a really good start for your research project! Your question is clear and you seem to have a very good background on the era you’ll be studying as well as the authors you will be focusing on. Also, you seem to have found really good resources to use for your paper, at least from what I can tell from your notes. Although my research topic is different, it’s a good example of the types of resources we should be using and how they can be helpful to our research.

  2. Brie, I like the way you’ve been tapping into some popular materials (i.e. the stuff from the BBC) in order to get some background for your research. It’s a promising topic, and certainly one that you’ll be able to find lots of primary material for!

    Your big task now, in the next few days, is to really try to focus your research topic and question so that you can focus your exploration. Choosing just one author, or even just one book, to discuss wouldn’t be a bad approach at all. You can explore how a single book was read, using Reading Experience Database, for instance, as you’ve already done. You can also explore how a single person read. For instance, if you wanted to explore how a prominent figure in women’s suffrage, or some other reform movement, make use of her or his reading, etc.

    In addition to the literary angle, you might try the social reform angle. Is there a particular time period, place, or movement you’re interested in? If you explore that a bit, you’ll no doubt discover who the prominent figures are in that movement and then you can see what kinds of records there are of their reading, either in the form of published letters, or diaries, or library records. We can go beyond the databases I’ve already identified to find some other things, too. Sadly, I could not get the links to the Gale Group publications to work, but Gale generally publishes good reference works so these should be fine.

    One additional thing that might be useful would be to browse through the volumes of Book History, just to see what they’ve been publishing about women writers. As I noted, there is an article about Jane Eyre in there (not related to any specific social movement) and I’m sure there are others. You should also be sure to do a search of MLA bibliography (from Mirlyn) on this topic for the last five years or so, just to see what people are writing about and where you can make an original contribution.

    Great topic! I can’t wait to see how you focus and pursue it!

  3. Very interesting topic, and similar to my own. It’s good to see that you found so many useful resources, I have had a very difficult time finding anything that talks about the history of American literature, which is strange considering there is so much on it. The only difficult thing might be finding quantitative information on the topic and expressing it in a way that correlates to your data. In one way, limiting data collection to one book would be more concise, but also could give you less data. I think you should maybe focus on a few classics and see their role in the larger picture.

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