What is a Woman to Do?: A Reader on Women, Work and Art, c. 1830-1890 (Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship between the Arts)

What is a Woman to Do?: A Reader on Women, Work and Art, c. 1830-1890 (Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship between the Arts)

Language: English

Pages: 388

ISBN: 3039111167

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This anthology contributes to a scholarly understanding of the aesthetics and economics of female artistic labour in the Victorian period. It maps out the evolution of the Woman Question in a number of areas, including the status and suitability of artistic professions for women, their engagement with new forms of work and their changing relationship to the public sphere. The wealth of material gathered here - from autobiographies, conduct manuals, diaries, periodical articles, prefaces and travelogues - traces the extensive debate on women’s art, feminism and economics from the 1830s to the 1890s.
Combining for the first time nineteenth-century criticism on literature and the visual arts, performance and craftsmanship, the selected material reveals the different ideological positions surrounding the transition of women from idleness to serious occupation. The distinctive primary sources explore the impact of artistic labour upon perceptions of feminine sensibility and aesthetics, the conflicting views of women towards the pragmatics of their own creative labour as they encompassed vocations, trades and professions, and the complex relationship between paid labour and female fame and notoriety.

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way – even if they do not marry. Some few sacrifice marriage, because they must sacrifice all other life if  they accept that. That man and woman have an equality of duties and rights is accepted by woman even less than by man. Behind his destiny woman must annihilate herself, must be only his complement. A woman dedicates herself  to the vocation of  her husband; she fills up and performs the subordinate parts in it. But if she has any destiny, any vocation of  her own, she must renounce it, in

University of Stirling. Her publications include the co-edited collection Authorship in Context: From the Theoretical to the Material (2007). She is currently working on a monograph on George Eliot, the nineteenth-century literary marketplace and sympathy. Patricia Zakreski is Teaching Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Exeter. She is the author of Representing Female Artistic Labour: Refining Work for the Middle-Class Woman (2006). Her current project concerns the

of  their femininity through their ref lection on themselves as arbiters of aesthetic value. In her famous essay, ‘What Shall We Do with Our Old Maids?’ (1862) for Fraser’s Magazine, Frances Power Cobbe describes a ‘new element of strength in female art’ that derives from the rejection of  these gendered dictates of art: Women a few years ago could only show a few weak and washy female poets and painters, and no sculptors at all. They can now boast of such true and powerful artists in these lines

his name, in the character of an authoress, thus laying herself open to public comment, we should hope she would never so far seek her own gratification, in preference to his, as to persist in a search after celebrity, which can only end in proving that she prefers the transient admiration of  the multitude, even supposing she may be gifted enough to obtain it, to the heart-felt esteem of  the partner of  her days. Madame Neckar, the mother of  Madame de Stael, though brought up in 154

assert and prove their powers; but progress has relieved them from an enormous disadvantage. They can use them, and even turn them to account now, naturally, quietly, and as a matter of course, without exciting injurious notice, without instilling such a sense of oddity and singularity as to af fect the manner, and often more than the manner, detrimentally; either through conceit, or shyness, or ef frontery, or simple awkwardness, and contempt for the graces of the sex – a contempt which comes to

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