‘now to the home of which you are the sunbeam': telling stories in The Wing of Azrael

Oulton, C. (2011) ‘now to the home of which you are the sunbeam': telling stories in The Wing of Azrael. In: Victorian Popular Fiction Association 3rd Annual Conference: Theme: Sex, Courtship and Marriage in Victorian Popular Fiction, 18th-19th July 2011, Institute for English Studies: University of London.

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Caird’s 1889 novel represents its heroine’s dilemma as a series of competing narratives. Stories told by characters consciously invoke gothic and biblical traditions in order to reinforce or challenge existing power structures; the narrator reworks the tropes of both sensation and realist fiction, as a means of uncovering the complicity of women in their own oppression while also signalling their capacity for resistance. The familiar metaphor of female sacrifice is used to suggest ritual sacrifice, as the gap between language and lived experience becomes increasingly fraught after the marriage of the heroine.

Viola Sedley is imprisoned within assumptions about woman’s destiny by the religious teaching of her mother as also by the brutal treatment of her father, who denies her an education and insists on her marriage to a wealthy suitor, Philip Dendraith, in order to repair the family fortunes. Philip manipulates and parodies the language of courtship in order to control and denigrate his female victims. The as yet unnamed ‘New Woman’, Mrs Lincoln, is alone able to undermine traditional renderings of marriage versus sexual fall, as her marginalised position both enables her resistance and signals her exclusion from the community of shared and legitimising female narratives.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Victorian; Caird
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman > HQ1101 Women. Feminism
P Language and Literature > PR English Literature
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English and Language Studies
Depositing User: Prof Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2012 15:28
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2014 14:10
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/10987

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00