Femininity In The Victorian Era Essay

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During the Victorian Era, ranging from 1837 to 1901, there was a resurgence of medieval themes and characters in popular media as England sought a foundation on which to build its empire. Just as the medieval time featured a shift from paganism to Christianity (epitomized by the tale of King Arthur; he, a Christ figure, vanquishes the pagan, Morgan Le Fay), the Victorian Era saw a literary shift from Romanticism to Gothicism. Where once nature and the heart ruled, the media of the time skewed toward sullen settings and morbid characters. A fascination with the pain and death of women evolved, society using tales of female suffering to heighten the perception of their frailty and establish patriarchal dominance. Masculinity and femininity were a fiercely binary construct in which men were the protector, valiant and strong while the Victorian Woman was the moral and…show more content…
This dogma idolized as well as infantilized women, culminating in Coventry Patmore’s “The Angel of the House.” Patmore’s poem, written in 1854, depicts a woman so wholly defined by her relationship to her male significant other, implying that femininity is but the absence of masculinity. Femininity was elevated to such a degree that the ‘ideal woman’ was unattainable to both men and women. Victorian culture was unable, or rather, unwilling, to recognize the complexities of gender identity and expression. This vehement heteronormativity and appropriation of the female voice led to detrimental repression of femininity as Ellen J. Stockstill argues in her essay “Gender Politics in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s THE LADY OF SHALOTT.” In “The Lady of Shalott,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson appropriates a female perspective to convey his frustration with heteronormative constraints during the Victorian Era and, in doing so, reinforces the notion of the “angel in the
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