Victorian Queer Archives Project

In this passage, Miss Du Prel and Temperly are having a discussion concerning the “duties” of women. Miss Du Prel believes that work should be evenly distributed. She doesn’t understand why all women must do the same work despite their different passions and mind sets. Temperly feels that all women should do the same work because it is what they are best suited for. He believes that women are meant to do the household duties because it is what “Nature” intended.

While this text has the ideals of the period in Temperly’s dialog, Miss Du Prel’s dialog attempts to queer gender roles. Miss Du Prel questions the gender roles assigned to women, diverging from the societal norms of the time. Miss Du Prel challenges the ideal that women are meant to do house work as opposed to reflecting on the intelligently stimulating.

Temperly draws a metaphor that women all want to be “Mary”s and not “Martha”s, meaning that women are neglecting their duties as woman to idly sit and think. Temperly is complaining that women are no longer doing their supposed duties around the house. Miss Du Prel views the issue in reverse. She believes that too many women are being confined to their household duties which is making them idle and no women can pursue over means of work.

Miss Du Prel tries to get Temperly to think of the situation from a woman’s perspective. By doing this, she is also blurring the lines of gender because she is asking a man to view himself in a woman’s position. She is trying to get Temperly to understand the plight of woman, that people who do not identify with them are being allowed to dictate what their rights are, and she wants him to understand that this is not fair. Temperly brings the conversation to Victorian ideals however by suggesting that women should trust men’s “able judgement” (Caird 78). Temperly also uses “nature” as then reason why women are subject to men.

By questioning her “female duties,” Miss Du Prel is allowing there to be a dialog discussing the queering of the Victorian gender binary. She is questioning the expectations placed on women and suggesting that they could do other work as well. Miss Du Prel is challenging the “norm” through her questioning of the accepted social gender roles.

Here, Hold This Pig, It Will Make You Look Older

Throughout Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll seems to be attempting to force Alice into womanhood. The most obvious example of this is that Alice is in a constantly growing. She never has control over her growing; she just blindly drinks and eats and grows uncontrollably.

Another example of this involves the baby that turns into a pig. The Duchess just throws the baby at Alice to “nurse”. Not only is the baby literally thrown at Alice, leaving her little choice but to catch it, but also Carroll’s use of the word “nurse” brings up some red flags. As discussed in class, nurse can mean to hold or to feed. Breast feeding is associated with motherhood and therefor womanhood because they were basically synonymous in the Victorian era, so by placing Alice in a position where she is expected take care of a baby, Carroll is essentially forcing Alice in to a more mature role then she is probably not ready for.

This seems to be a type of trend for Carroll. He is also a noted photographer of little girls. Through our studies of images so far, it has become apparent that muses for his works are generally women. By having girls be his muse, Carroll has depicted them in a role for woman once again.

This is an interesting concept to investigate considering our classes’ contemplation of Carroll’s desire to photograph children. I have not done enough research to see how deep Carroll’s desire runs.

I think it is easy to say that Alice in Wonderland is simply a coming of age story and that Alice being placed in adult situations has less to do with Carroll’s desire to mature little girls and more to do with Alice’s natural progression in to womanhood. It’s hard for me to see the novel this way though considering Carroll’s other hobby. I know a new criticism critic would disagree with me, but that’s okay. I just can’t get over Carroll’s photography and the implications that would have on his writing.

She doesn’t have the look… or maybe it’s the stamina

The Feeding the Motherless etching by the Illman Brothers was one of my favorites that we saw on Monday.  I like that it was more focused on what the woman is doing than on how she looks. The artist did not go out of their way to make the woman strikingly beautiful either and gave the woman more depth than that. She has a plain face and therefore the eye is free to travel to the intricately etched nest and baby birds.

Both the woman in the etching and Marian seem to have been forced into mothering roles; the etching woman by the kindness of her heart in taking in helpless birds and Marian by her affections for her sister. The woman in the etching to me seems to be tired by her role as mother because of the shading around and under her eyes, which suggests to me that this role assignment is taxing on her. This also mirrors the burden Marian’s role as mother to Laura places on her as shown through the loss of freedom Marian has in going into hiding.

The etching’s focus on the woman’s actions rather than her looks also reminds me of Marian. Marian is described as “ugly” by Walter and while the woman in the etching is not ugly, she is not as glamorous as the other woman in the other etchings (Collins 34). I feel like because these are not woman who are praised for their looks the people portraying them use their actions in order to give them some value in the Victorian society.

This reminds me of William Rathbone Greg’s essay. He discusses how woman are redundant unless they are married or serving others and that these are their greatest purposes in life. Using Greg’s point of view it can be assumed that in serving, Marian and the etching woman are being fulfilled through their roles as mothers, despite the fact that the act itself is very draining on both women.

While I appreciate that the viewer gets to admire the woman through her work and not her look, the Feeding of the Motherless etching is still not the ideal portrayal of a woman given its Victorian context.

Housework and the Independent Woman

Marian has always been a strong character. To watch her break down over housework, I could not help but think that there was something more to the scene. The type of sadness I felt reading the passage made me feel like what Marian was experiencing was more similar to a death then preforming housework. In many ways I think was more like death.

To start Marian has always lived a life of prestige. She has never had to do housework. By her taking on this role it is showing her fall in status and the hardships to come. Marian’s lost goes beyond her status though it reaches the very core of her character. Marian has always been a very independent woman and now she must completely rely on Walter.  Marian has always had a lot of pride in the fact that she is not obedient and placid like the other woman in her life and now she is being forced into a role that is stereotyped specifically for woman. I think in taking on the housework Marian is giving up a lot more than just some free time.

I also think by performing housework Marian is solidifying her role as “mother” in the trio’s foe family, which is not a role that Marian has ever indicated wanting for herself. Marian has always proven to be a very mature person, but it has always been in ways that are “for men”. For example, her taking care of Laura’s legal affairs in terms of her marriage as best as she could. Now Marian most be mature in a maternal way. She has to tend to the house, take care of the child (Laura), and anxiously wait for her husband (Walter) to return home.

I was reassured however when Marian says “it’s my weakness that cries, not me. The housework shall conquer it, if I can’t” (Collins 433). This line is a reminder that Marian still has a fire in her. She is determined to make the most of her poor situation. While Marian may have lost her independence she has not lost her strength which has always been her defining quality.

Making a Fish English

I think that Pesca is a really interesting character, who I would like to explore more. Pesca is a fun character to read about, but I find what he symbolizes irritating. Collins is using Pesca to be the embodiment of English elitism. He is constantly trying to be “more English”. This idea that foreigners want to be more like the English is a Victorian ideal that reinforces imperialism. Pesca wanted to try everything there was to be as close to an Englishman as possible: “The ruling idea of his life appeared to be, that he was bound to show his gratitude to the country which had afforded him an asylum and a means of subsistence, by doing his utmost to turn himself into an Englishamn” (Collins 11). He goes so far as to try to swim even though he does not know how. Walt is then put in the positon to save him. This image of an Englishman saving a foreigner was all too common an excuse for imperialism during the time. Of course the foreigner is ever grateful to the merciful Englishman for saving his life.

Looking at the chain of events more closely, however, it should be noted that had Pesca not been trying to be English he would not have been drowning in the first place. In trying to be English, Pesca placed himself in harm’s way. Had Pesca been participating in activities that he was familiar with he would not have needed help. The Englishman only becomes the “savior” after, he has impressed the very thing that is putting people in danger.

Pesca is amusing to read, but he is a complete caricature. I think that he is portrayed in a very degrading way. I do not think Pesca is doing anything wrong, it is more the way people talk to him that is degrading. Ms. Hartright talks down to him and never takes him seriously, while Sarah is out right cold to him. Both forms of treatment are due to Pesca not being English. His poor treatment bothers me because Pesca is such a pleasant character so it is annoying to read about people treating him poorly.