Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Natalie Schroeder

Second Advisor

Sheila Skemp

Third Advisor

Colby H. Kullman

Abstract

The Victorian Era was one of great social flux; tremendous advances in science and technology called into question deeply held religious beliefs while the changing legal status of women threatened to undermine traditional views of gender roles. Industrialization and the driving economic force of capitalism led to rapid urbanization as well as contributing to shifting class boundaries. In addition, the purpose and responsibilities of the Artist/Poet and, indeed, of art itself were closely scrutinized and hotly contested. Most frequently, historians and scholars of literature have looked to authors such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson when charting the progression of the various social anxieties that informed the Victorian age. These, along with other authors considered part of the canon, offer valuable insight into nineteenth-century values, and their voices are those most frequently cited as representative of Victorian attitudes and concerns. However, another, and less familiar, writer offers equally important commentary on the period. Ouida was a British author well known for her best-selling sensation novels of the 1860s and her novels of society written in the following decades. She published prolifically, sometimes releasing more than one novel in a single year. Ouida was widely read in her time, and though her work is not currently studied by a significant portion of the academy, her voice was an important component of the chorus of Victorian authors writing about gender, class, scientific development and the relevance of art and the artist. As a result, Ouida offers a vital perspective on Victorian life that deserves the attention and scholarship afforded to canonized writers of this period.

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