'Read it through my marks': Revision and Female Authorship in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century

  • Lucy Hanks

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis analyses the way that women prepared their manuscripts for publication in the mid-nineteenth-century to understand the prescriptions on gender that influenced the development of their texts. It considers markings, deletions, and cuts to contribute to 'manuscript textuality' which informs an interpretation of self-reflexive images within the text. The project argues that women embrace self-reflexivity as a means to engage in an active negotiation of gendered discourses in the nineteenth-century marketplace. By analysing the ways in which texts are edited with a view to reception, this methodology opens up new opportunities for interpreting the gendered dimensions to transformations of form. Revision often allows women to mitigate the impact of their language, while refining self-reflexivity in the text hints at something potentially transgressive which has been taken out. Chapter one analyses how the collaborative way that Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte is revised engages with clear social imperatives involved with life writing. Collaboration allows Gaskell to shift the narrative voice between ambiguity and authority in order to manage the distance between the author and subject. Chapter two then turns to Charlotte Bronte's cuttings on the manuscript of Villette to understand how her representation of an unconventional female subject is influenced by an awareness of the text's reception. Excisions reveal how Bronte embraces silence as a productive narrative mode for her protagonist, which enables her to maintain control over the way she is represented and received by Victorian society. Chapter three examines Elizabeth Barrett Browning's revisions of Aurora Leigh, which allow her to refine her challenge to poetic traditions in the mid-nineteenth-century by embedding it within the very rhythm and sounds of her lines. Attending to the manuscript not only provides new perspectives on well-trodden material; it allows us to understand how women were not silenced by gender prescriptions in the mid-nineteenth-century but actively negotiated them through the act of revision.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMichael Sanders (Supervisor) & Clara Dawson (Supervisor)


  • revision
  • charlotte bronte
  • elizabeth barrett browning
  • elizabeth gaskell
  • archives
  • women's studies
  • poetry
  • manuscripts
  • life writing
  • novel
  • Victorian studies

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