Manufacturing selves : the poetics of self-representation and identity in the poetry of three “factory-girls”, 1840-1882
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This thesis is a transatlantic examination of self-representational strategies in factory women’s poetry from circa 1848-1882, highlighting in particular how the medium of the working-class periodical enabled these socially marginal poets to subjectively engage with and reconfigure dominant typologies of class and gender within nineteenth-century poetics. The first chapter explores how working-class women were depicted in middle-class social-reform literature and working-class men’s poetry. It argues that factory women were circumscribed into roles of social villainy or victimage in popular bourgeois reform texts by authors such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Caroline Norton, and were cast as idealized domestic figures in working-class men’s poetry in the mid-nineteenth century. The remaining three chapters examine the poetry of Manchester dye-worker Fanny Forrester, Scottish weaver Ellen Johnston, and Lowell mill-girl Lucy Larcom as case-studies of factory women’s poetics in mid-nineteenth century writing. Chapter Two discusses the life and work of Fanny Forrester in Ben Brierley’s Journal, and considers how Forrester’s invocation of the pastoral genre opens new opportunities for urban, factory women to engage with ideologies of domestic femininity within a destabilized urban cityscape. Chapter Three considers the work of Ellen Johnston, “The Factory Girl” whose numerous poems in The People’s Journal and the Penny Post cross genres, dialects, and themes. This chapter claims that Johnston’s poetry divides class and gender identity depending on her intended audience—a division exemplified, respectively, by her nationalistic poetry and her sentimental correspondence poetry. Chapter Four explores the work of Lucy Larcom, whose contributions to The Lowell Offering and her novel-poem An Idyl of Work harness the language and philosophy of Evangelical Christianity to validate women’s wage-labor as socially and religiously appropriate. Ultimately, this thesis contends that nineteenth-century factory women’s poetry from Britain and America embodies the tensions surrounding the “factory girl” identity, and offers unique aesthetic and representational strategies of negotiating women’s factory labor.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Reason: Embargo period has ended, thesis made available in accordance with University regulations.
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