Monstrous Silhouette: The Development of the Female Monster in British Literature

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In this thesis, I analyze the effects of social, political, and economic change and the historical effects of said change on the literary representations of female monsters as portrayed by male authors in medieval and Victorian literature. To contextualize the literature selected, each chapter involves extensive research which I argue influenced the presentation of the characters selected. Each chapter also includes extensive textual analysis to show direct examples in the text relating to the historical context, followed by a section tying the ideology of the thesis with the context provided in the historical and textual analysis sections. The purpose of this analysis is to demonstrate the repercussions of social change on the social standings of women and the manifestation of those changes within literature as a form of expression for the conflicting representations of the nature of femininity and the anxieties of the male writers in these moments of upheaval.

At the beginning of this analysis, there was some expectation for a direct correlation between masculine anxieties and increases in female independence resulting in wholly negative portrayals of women, resulting on monstrous images; however, each character, despite their clearly monstrous traits, was nuanced in a way that was frequently empathetic, particularly when placed within the historical context of social change.

Medieval, Medieval literature, Middle Ages, Victorian literature, Victorian England, Feminism, medieval England, Feminist theory, Monster, Monster theory, Redundancy and emigration, The woman question, New woman, Angel of the house, Christianity, Paganism, The black death, Plague, Widows, Emigration debate, Redundancy issue