Disorderly Sisters: Sibling Relations and Sororal Resistance in Nineteenth-Century British Literature

Disorderly Sisters: Sibling Relations and Sororal Resistance in Nineteenth-Century British Literature

Disorderly Sisters: Sibling Relations and Sororal Resistance in Nineteenth-Century British Literature

Disorderly Sisters: Sibling Relations and Sororal Resistance in Nineteenth-Century British Literature

Synopsis

"This book explores one of the central concerns of nineteenth-century fiction - the family - examines the literary and historical dimensions of the period's particular obsession with siblings. Historians and literary critics have long understood the crucial significance of the family to the nineteenth-century middle-class sensibility, but almost all critical analyses to date have concentrated on the "vertical" pole of the familial axis - the parent-child relationship - and very little on the "horizontal" pole - the sibling bond. This book looks beyond these analyses to show that at the core of nineteenth-century domestic ideology is the figure of the sister." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

On a now famous "Golden Afternoon" of the Summer of 1862, the Reverend Charles Dodgson, brother to seven sisters, recounted to three other Victorian sisters, Lorina, Edith, and Alice Liddell, distant relatives of Queen Victoria, a story that contained these lines:

“Once upon a time there were three little sisters,” the Dormouse
began in a great hurry: “and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie;
and they lived at the bottom of a well—”
“What did they live on?” said Alice. …
“They lived on treacle,” said the Dormouse, after thinking for a
minute or two.

“They couldn’t have done that, you know,” Alice gently remarked.
“They’d have been ill.”

“So they were,” said the Dormouse; “very ill.”

This book is about that well.

THE POLITICS OF THE FAMILY: CONDUCTING SISTERS

These pages explore the literary and historical dimensions of the nineteenth-century obsession with the family, which turns out to be in large part an obsession with siblings, especially sisters. A focus on the relatively uncharted territory of the horizontal rather than the vertical plane of the family axis, and on the sister as the primary pole of the sibling relationship, is the key to understanding much about the complicated and contradictory conception of the nineteenthcentury middle-class family. Refiguring the dynamics of “family romance” in nineteenth-century fiction not only introduces us to a productive rereading of the novels of the period, but invites an essential rethinking of nineteenth-century moral values in relation . . .

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