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Dreaming in technicolor but living in black and white - Elizabeth Gaskells Cousin Phillis
2001 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

Elizabeth Gaskell’s novella Cousin Phillis was written by a woman writer about a woman but the story is told by a male narrator. In the cross-gender narration conflicting and contrasting elements are interwoven, which the author uses as pedagogical aids to guide the reader into different levels of interpretation of an otherwise closed story that is related by a seemingly reliable but awkward narrator. Gaskell's pastoral novella contains intertextual allusions not only to the Bible and profane classic literature but also to the social conflict that an economic shift in the mid-19th century brought in its train. By looking at the hierarchical relationship between contrasting elements in the novella, the reader can piece together evidence about a clash between Victorian rural idyll and the growth of industrialism in England. Although Elisabeth Gaskell’s Cousin Phillis deals with a young woman’s gradual inner change from an innocent full of expectations to a heartbroken, jilted and finally deserted mature woman, her outward image remains intact in the pastoral idyll that is the setting of the novella. Her education or rather her role as a learner shows the hierarchical relationship between men and women. Phillis's learning is based on what she is being taught, that is, what her father, as well as Mr Holdsworth, wants her to know, not what she asks for. Instead of resulting in self-esteem and independence, Phillis’s education turns out to be a constraint under the Victorian normative rules of conduct. The aim of this paper is to show how Elizabeth Gaskell uses complementary contrasts in Cousin Phillis to illustrate conflicts between stability and change in Victorian everyday life at the time of the industrial revolution.

Abstract [en]

Elizabeth Gaskell’s novella Cousin Phillis was written by a woman writer about a woman but the story is told by a male narrator. In the cross-gender narration conflicting and contrasting elements are interwoven, which the author uses as pedagogical aids to guide the reader into different levels of interpretation of an otherwise closed story that is related by a seemingly reliable but awkward narrator. Gaskell's pastoral novella contains intertextual allusions not only to the Bible and profane classic literature but also to the social conflict that an economic shift in the mid-19th century brought in its train. By looking at the hierarchical relationship between contrasting elements in the novella, the reader can piece together evidence about a clash between Victorian rural idyll and the growth of industrialism in England. Although Elisabeth Gaskell’s Cousin Phillis deals with a young woman’s gradual inner change from an innocent full of expectations to a heartbroken, jilted and finally deserted mature woman, her outward image remains intact in the pastoral idyll that is the setting of the novella. Her education or rather her role as a learner shows the hierarchical relationship between men and women. Phillis's learning is based on what she is being taught, that is, what her father, as well as Mr Holdsworth, wants her to know, not what she asks for. Instead of resulting in self-esteem and independence, Phillis’s education turns out to be a constraint under the Victorian normative rules of conduct. The aim of this paper is to show how Elizabeth Gaskell uses complementary contrasts in Cousin Phillis to illustrate conflicts between stability and change in Victorian everyday life at the time of the industrial revolution.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2001. , 22 p.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-53862Local ID: ENG D-11OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-53862DiVA: diva2:1102422
Subject / course
English
Available from: 2017-05-29 Created: 2017-05-29

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Citation style
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