Seeing Together: Friendship between the Sexes in English Writing from Mill to Woolf

Seeing Together: Friendship between the Sexes in English Writing from Mill to Woolf

Seeing Together: Friendship between the Sexes in English Writing from Mill to Woolf

Seeing Together: Friendship between the Sexes in English Writing from Mill to Woolf

Synopsis

Friendship between the sexes is notoriously difficult to describe. Seeing Together examines the efforts of some of England's key writers - from poets to propagandists - during a period when 'mere friendship' came to seem intensely important and when discussion of professional relations between men and women came to touch upon a troubling network of sexual, social and political dynamics. Among the authors discussed are John Stuart Mill, Robert Browning, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf.

Excerpt

In Chapter 1 I focused on a moment of particular idiomatic instability--1869, a time when, as Eliza Linton had said, one could "hang" gender-related discourse "on any peg," and when evocations of unconventional "friendship" continually had little credibility. Now I want to emphasize a relation between that idiomatic problem and a narrative problem. The mid-Victorians were unable to substantiate claims about heterosexual friendship, but not because they lacked words for it (quite to the contrary). Rather, the words were unconvincing and too often became assimilated into narratives in which "friendship" would give way to some other form of union: usually sinful romance, sanctioned romance, or heavenly salvation. Julia Wedgwood looked forward to a time when friendship would be more possible; she lived in a time when "friendship" seemed always on the verge of being consummated as something else.

That Victorian narrative conventions were almost inherently inimical to "friendship" should be evident from the preceding pages: texts as generically diverse as Mill Autobiography, the essay collection Women's Work and Women's Culture, and Browning epic poem The Ring and the Book each displace "friendship" in service of their controlling narratives. Nowhere was the displacement of friendship more insistently and instructively carried out than in Victorian novels, which sustained their stories to unprecedented lengths and on behalf of ambitious claims to realism and yet were expected to issue in the neatest conclusions--conclusions in which "friendship" had little chance of a place. With the novel as a form committed to consummation of various kinds, almost always ending in death, marriage, or some related alternative, the unstable and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.