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Silencing for a reason: Elizabeth Gaskell’s cousin Phillis
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4960-3251
Luleå University of Technology.
2008 (English)In: Orbis Litterarum, ISSN 0105-7510, E-ISSN 1600-0730, Vol. 63, no 5, 422-440 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The view of the emotionally volatile woman as a sharp contrast to the rational man is not compatible with Victorian understandings of women as passionless creatures devoid of true feelings. Elizabeth Gaskell dramatises this contradictory view of womanhood in her novella Cousin Phillis (1864) by showing that although women in nineteenth-century fiction are depicted as slaves to their feelings, intense emotions are seen as the prerogatives of men. Thus, on the surface Cousin Phillis may be understood as a text that adheres to conventional gender codes. Gaskell’s representation of women and men, however, clearly indicates that women are emotionally and intellectually crippled in patriarchal societies.

Self-control and control of others are shown to be important factors for the structuring of gendered emotions, and if emotions have historically been gendered female, it is evident that the act of silencing and controlling has been gendered male. The gendered interplay of verbal and emotional expression and silencing, as well as a strict adherence to rationality before emotion, constitute the main themes in Gaskell’s novella. To reinforce the theme of silencing Gaskell’s role as producer of the text is concealed behind the voice of a male narrator.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Copenhagen: Munksgaard , 2008. Vol. 63, no 5, 422-440 p.
Keyword [en]
emotion, reason, voice, silence, gender, cross-gendered narration, Elizabeth Gaskell, Cousin Phillis
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-10715DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0730.2008.00939.xOAI: diva2:150386
Available from: 2009-10-14 Created: 2008-10-23 Last updated: 2016-05-10Bibliographically approved

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