Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Tuesday, June 01, 2021 12:30 am by M. in ,    No comments
A new Brontë-related thesis:
by Alexandria Waldron
Harvard University
2021

Intoxication in nineteenth-century Britain was a ubiquitous practice, a behavior helpfully documented by both men and women writers of the era. Those authors whose personal experiences with intoxicating substances are well-known include references to such experiences in their works, but why are there such stark differences between the genders in these presentations? Through close examination and comparison of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, and a selection of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry, these contrasts become clear; the influence of personal and social conditions particular to Victorian women appear as a direct influence on the presentation of both literal and metaphorical intoxication. Bronte and Barrett Browning’s depictions of intoxication through ethereal images, particularly those of pagan antiquity, stand in sharp contrast to the empirical physicality of Wilde and Stevenson’s portrayals. The imprisoning capabilities of the domestic sphere for women give intoxication the power to unlock the imagination of these authors beyond the earthly realm, whereas the relative existential and intellectual freedom for Victorian men lead to a focus upon the detrimental bodily effects of addiction and a more scientific expression of the experiences.

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