Reconsidering the Victorian Angel in the Light of Butler’s Concept of Performativity
Amid the fast changes and repercussions of the French and Industrial Revolutions in the 19th century, women's critical status in the transitory period in Britain stimulated the Victorian elite, namely women novelists like Elizabeth Gaskell, to raise the complex issue of femininity and womanhood to establish femininity as an agency. Interrogating the predominant concept of a woman as an angel, this study sets forth to examine the mechanisms of the building-up of women characters wrestling with the Victorian ideal of the angel for a sweet home that has been established by leading figures and theorists of domestic ideology such as C. Patmore and J. Ruskin. The investigation of Gaskell’s fictional narratives reveals the authorial discourse that represents a rebellion to transcend the deep-seated established norms of traditional femininity in contradiction with masculinity. This argument is corroborated through three analytical angles while applying J. Butler’s theory of performativity. While the first section presents the socio-cultural background of women as angels, the second one analyses the female characters' performance within the theoretical framework of Butler's concept of “performativity” through which gender identity is ‘enacted,’ i.e., a doing. Thus, the third section scrutinises the role of the language used by the female characters in the selected corpus of Mary Barton and North and Southto validate the subversive discourse that initiated the pattern of the New Woman in resistance to the patriarchal ideals.
"Reconsidering the Victorian Angel in the Light of Butler’s Concept of Performativity,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
3, Article 2.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss3/2