Phd Thesis Plan 'cracked Mirrors And Petrifying Vision Negotiating Femininity As Spectacle Within The Victorian Cultural Sphere' Notes
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Cracked Mirrors and Petrifying Vision: Negotiating Femininity as Spectacle Within the Victorian Cultural Sphere Part I The preliminary section of this thesis is based upon the same assertion as that put forward by Joseph Bristow (2000, 43): that studying oppressive and limiting categories 'might help us to imagine what it might mean to think beyond them'. Thus, while subsequent sections focus on responses and challenges to such categories, the thesis will begin by establishing the male gaze in terms of how it has been theorised and evidenced as a longstanding scenario in Western culture and, more specifically, within the nineteenth century, with the Victorian period's optical advancements and heightened sense of the visual (as well as anxieties regarding the stability of identity) being reflected in artistic and literary works (and, as will be seen later, particularly via the use of motifs such as mirrors and windows). This optical focus goes hand in hand with a focus on social definitions of 'proper' gender roles (which were particularly acute during the nineteenth century), and this section will thus focus on the gendered nature of visual relations, with the act of looking being positioned as one of many interdependent binary modes of thinking that emphasise female passivity and restrict various aspects of women's lives (as indicated by Darwinian discourse of sexual selection and notions of separate spheres, as well as the widely-acknowledged dichotomy that positions women as either angelic figures or dangerous harlots.) Consequently, this section will discuss theorisations of the male gaze, and will point to various nineteenth century texts as demonstrating and prefiguring the main arguments of such theories via their depictions of voyeurism and objectification. Thus, it will refer to images of chained naked women or women being spied upon while asleep or otherwise unaware, along with relevant literary works that depict, dramatise or theorise the scenario wherein women are positioned as objects of vision and mirrors of male desire; that is, as reflections of the male speaker's desires and anxieties rather than subjects in their own right (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's works are particularly relevant in this regard, while Robert Browning's poems highlight the sinister aspects of this scenario.) Part II Having established the existence and prevalence of the male gaze, the second section will consider how this template impacts upon women; specifically, to what extent women are aware of it (and its unequal nature), and what the potential psychological consequences are of such awareness. It will begin by posing the question of whether women are aware of doublestandards and objectification, taking into consideration the suggestion that awareness is potentially discouraged by the naturalisation and internalisation of cultural mores. Likewise, it will reference theorists' suggestions that women might gain pleasure from their 'to-belooked-at-ness'. However, while acknowledging these arguments and their supporting evidence, this section will argue against the assumption that women as a whole are either unaware of or derive pleasure from their object status, and will point to evidence (both reallife accounts and female-authored literature) that indicates an awareness of and
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