Cover: Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth, from Harvard University PressCover: Woman and the Demon in PAPERBACK

Woman and the Demon

The Life of a Victorian Myth

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PAPERBACK

$32.50 • £26.95 • €29.50

ISBN 9780674954076

Publication Date: 01/15/1984

Short

272 pages

39 halftones

World

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Here is a bold new vision of Victorian culture: a study of myths of womanhood that shatters the usual generalizations about the squeezed, crushed, and ego-less Victorian woman.

Through copious examples drawn from literature, art, and biography, Nina Auerbach reconstructs three central paradigms: the angel/demon, the old maid, and the fallen woman. She shows how these animate a pervasive Victorian vision of a mobile female outcast with divine and demonic powers. Fear of such disruptive, self-creating figures, Auerbach argues, produces the approved ideal of the dutiful, family-bound woman. The awe they inspire associates them with characters in literature, the only vehicles of immortality in whom most Victorians could unreservedly believe.

Auerbach looks at a wonderful variety of sources: Svengali, Dracula, and Freud; poets and major and minor novelists Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, and Ruskin; lives of women, great and unknown; Anglican sisterhoods and Magdalen homes; bardolatry and the theater; Pre-Raphaelite paintings and contemporary cartoons and book illustrations. Reinterpreting a medley of fantasies, she demonstrates that female powers inspired a vivid myth central to the spirit of the age.

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