Thursday, August 28, 2014

Food, Elizabeth Gaskell, Sarah Waters and Contemporary Female Bildungsroman

Tomorrow is not only the opening of the 2014 Brontë Society Conference but also of this confernce in Slovakia with several Brontë-related talks:

12th ESSE Conference in Košice, Slovakia
Friday 29 August – Tuesday 2 September, 2014
Department of British and American Studies, Faculty of Arts and SKASE (The Slovak Association for the Study of English)

Agata Buda, University of Technology and Humanities in Radom, Poland, a.buda@pr.radom.pl
Food as the Representation of Gender Roles in the Victorian Female Novel

The aim of the paper is to analyse the idea of cooking/eating in two Victorian novels: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. Both works present the idea of food as one of the major points of reference in human relationships. One of the aspects worth analysing is family eating. The meetings are preceded by careful preparation of meals (e.g. preserves by Mrs. Tulliver or Nelly’s dishes). The food often becomes the major topic during these meetings, showing in this way the gender roles in the nineteenth-century England: females are irreplaceable in preparing food but men very often ignore the final product of cooking. This idyllic space of collective eating (according to M. Bakhtin) can be frequently destroyed by refusing; men refuse to eat either because of sadness (Mr. Earnshaw) or being fussy (Linton); women do not eat due to the fact they are busy taking care of men (Cathy) or are more interested in reading (Maggie). Both sexes are aware of the demands society poses to them. Neither Cathy and Maggie are allowed to read books, but expected to be mindful about meals.

María José Coperías Aguilar, University of Valencia, Spain, maria.j.coperias@uv.es
The Reception of Elizabeth Gaskell in Spain

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–1865) was a prolific and well-known Victorian writer who enjoyed great popularity during her lifetime and sold a comparatively high number of copies of her books. However, after her death, her work seems to have fallen into oblivion in the minds of most readers and critics, except for her novel Cranford and her biography of Charlotte Brontë. Although an incomplete collection of her works was published in the early 20th century and some occasional critical studies were also published in the first half of that century, it was not until the 1950s, with Marxist criticism, and in the 1970s and 1980s, from a feminist approach, that she was rediscovered. In this paper we will try to analyse how her work has been received in Spain, especially in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Despite the few translations we have managed to find for the first half of the 20th century, in recent decades there appears to have been a great increase in popular interest in reading her work. However, this great interest in Elizabeth Gaskell does not seem to exist in the academic world.

Soňa Šnircová, Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, Slovakia, sona.snircova@upjs.sk
Girlhood in Susan Fletcher’s Eve Green and Tiffany Murray’s Happy Accidents: Contemporary Transformations of the Female Bildungsroman.

Published in 2004 as debut novels by contemporary writers, Eve Green and Happy Accidents share some important similarities. Fatherless and abandoned (for different reasons) by their rebellious mothers, the young heroines have to move from cities to the rural setting of Welsh farms to be brought up by their maternal grandmothers. Both authors place the coming-of-age stories into the context of the female Bildungsroman tradition, using allusions to Jane Eyre as important structural elements of their narratives. My paper will claim that these two texts represent a new stage in the development of the female Bildungsroman since their appropriation of the tradition can be defined as postfeminist: Susan Fletcher, who makes the romantic motif of Jane Eyre central to her novel, appears to support the new cult of (almost idyllic) domesticity, while Tiffany Murray, whose images of domesticity are, on the contrary, interwoven with grotesque elements, uses the mad Bertha motif in the way that challenges victim feminism.

Eileen Williams-Wanquet, University of La Réunion, France, eileen.williams-wanquet@univ-reunion.fr
Reviving Ghosts: The Reversibility of Victims and Vindicators in Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger

I would like to pursue the conclusion Susana Onega comes to, in her answer to George Letissier, concerning the identity of the “little stranger” in Sarah Waters’s fifth novel (2009), showing how Waters associates the use of the Gothic and of psychological realism to “plumb the psyche” (Robert Heilmann) and express the unspeakable trauma of the mixed feelings involved in British class relations. Although the novel is set in the context of the class crisis of the postwar period, the trauma transcends time and space. The transtextuality with Jane Eyre shall be developed, in order to suggest that the “phantom” unconsciously carried by the narrator-focaliser, Faraday, is also that of Bertha Mason and of Jane Eyre herself, revived with a vengeance in The Little Stranger. Haunted by the ghost of a ghost of a ghost of a past text that itself keeps spectrally and anti-lineally returning, Waters’ novel, typical of postmodern romances that “create doubt” (Elam) and blur temporality, rethinks the relation between victims and vindicators, offering a reflexion on the ubiquitous and elusive nature of evil, and on its origins: if a victim cannot exist without a tormentor and if a traumatised victim returns to take revenge, where do vulnerability and responsibility ultimately lie and how can the endless repetition of the same, the repetitive spiral of violence, be broken?

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