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|Title:||Domestic Ruins: Imagining the Nunnery in Eighteenth-Century British Literature|
|Department:||English and Cultural Studies|
|Abstract:||<p> The Catholic nun and nunnery participate in the formation of eighteenth-century gender and national identities. Not only do nuns and nunneries appear in literary works from the Restoration to the Regency period and beyond, they also act as sites upon which major aesthetic, political, cultural and material theories of identity work themselves out in the eighteenth century. This dissertation argues that the antiquarian, literary, and aesthetic understanding of nunneries in the long eighteenth century had everything to do with imagining ideal domestic femininity, and at the same time disavowing that imagination. </p> <p> I begin with an analysis of the post-Reformation antiquarian treatment of medieval English nunneries, and then apply that analysis to three sites of literary imagination: Alexander Pope's "Eloisa to Abelard" (1717), Sophia Lee's The Recess (1783-5), and the gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe (1790-97). I also pair my analyses of these texts with cultural, political, and material contexts such as antiquary John Brand's treatment of Godstow Nunnery, William Beckford's architectural folly Fonthill Abbey, accounts of French emigres during the Revolution, the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots, and images of monastic ruins and wax bodies. </p> <p> With these varied contexts in mind, I come to the conclusion that the repression of Roman Catholic identity involves a very specific re-imagining of the nunnery and the nun's body within it; this re-imagination narrates Protestant domestic identity onto the site of female monastic ruins in order to re-signify such mutable sites as fixed symbols of virtuous femininity and maternity. I conclude with a look at how this construction of ideal femininity figures in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1798) and Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley 's Secret (1861-62), as they both take as their setting a convent-turned-country house. The popular consumption of poetry, antiquarian history and art, novels, and consumer goods converge in my conclusion to show how concerns with a lack of distinction between the public and private are also about a lack of distinction between the ideal and subversive woman, as she is a version of there-imagined Catholic nun. </p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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|Kerfoot_Alicia_L_2010_phd.pdf||22.88 MB||Adobe PDF||View/Open|
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