Rivers, Bronwyn Books

Dr. Bronwyn Rivers completed her doctorate in English Literature at the University of Oxford. She wrote this book as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of New South Wales. Her work on Victorian literature has appeared in various scholarly journals.

Women at Work in the Victorian Novel
2005 0-7734-5903-0
Although middle-class women’s work was one of the major social and feminist issues of the mid-Victorian period, literary critics have yet to give extended consideration to the way women novelists treated this topic. This book examines the form and ideologies of mid-Victorian novels that represent middle-class women at work.

The study locates women’s novels of the period within a discourse of women’s work that included writing by the Langham Place feminists, Sarah Ellis, Sarah Lewis, and Harriett Martineau. Focusing on novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, the Brontë sisters, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, but also examining the work of lesser-known writers such as Amelia B. Edwards, Louise Costello and Ouida, this work examines how both ideologies and rhetorical forms circulated within fictional and non-fictional writing.

The work debate fundamentally challenged social beliefs about women’s sexual and class status, their economic and marital positions, and their educational and occupational opportunities. The demands of work reformers conflicted with the domestic ideology of womanhood, which assumed that middle-class women would remain as the moral centre of the domestic sphere, supported by their husbands or fathers.

By examining the way that novels both influenced and were influenced by this ideology, this book demonstrates how Victorian novels contributed to the imaginative and ideological changes of that most important aspect of female emancipation, women’s work.