Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/11397
Around the middle of the nineteenth century, the Victorian publishing world – like most of society – was very male oriented. Although Victorians had begun to accept female writers, especially when it came to novel writing, many still believed that women writers showed lack of originality and that they would never be anything other than imitators of men’s superior works. This ideology largely persisted throughout the twentieth century and even today, scholars and critics seem more inclined to recognise the influences of males in the works of male authors, while the possibility of women’s influence on male writers seems to have been largely ignored.
This M.A. thesis examines the status and influence of Victorian women writers through the relationship and works of Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens. Biographies and letters are used to examine their evolving work relationship, as editor and contributor to Dickens’s magazine Household Words, and their interaction with each other and those around them are used to shed a light on their own status in relation to society and their own sense of authorship. By comparing and contrasting Dickens and Gaskell as writers of social novels, it becomes evident that Gaskell’s gender and her status as a new author did in fact enable her to challenge accepted novelistic methods in ways that Dickens could not. Gaskell’s novels provide readers with a sharp and realistic portrayal of Victorian social problems, unaffected by the excess humour or melodrama that often reduces the power of Dickens’s social commentary. Moreover, instead of being unduly influenced by Dickens’s own serial style, Gaskell’s originality appears to have influenced and inspired Dickens, rather than the other way around. Through a detailed comparison of works such as Hard Times and North and South, possible evidence of Dickens having borrowed ideas and phrases from Gaskell’s works are revealed and throw into question the unilateral notion that Victorian male authors served only as mentors to early Victorian female writers.
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