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.
Tompkins, Joyce. “Charlotte Bronte (British Author).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia
Britannica, 6 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.