Feminism in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh
In Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning creates an independent, intelligent young woman. Barrett Browning successfully demonstrates the difficult obstacles women had to overcome in the Victorian period. There were preconceived ideas of what "proper" women were suppose to do with their life. Not that this idea has completely been surmounted in our time. Barrett Browning though is optimistic about the goals women can achieve. She wants to demonstrate to women that belief in themselves and their dreams is possible and preferable to the standard.
The poem begins with Aurora Leigh's observations of her aunt. "Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight/ As if for taming …show more content…
"Of the mathematics,--brushed with extreme flounce/ The circle of the sciences, because/ She misliked women who are frivolous" (404-407). Her aunt considered the learning of mathematics and science a waste of time because a woman would have no chance to use them. She withheld any reading that were considered improper. In effect Aurora Leigh was taught "A general insight into useful facts" 413). Therefore a woman was taught enough facts that could prove useful in conversation. She was not taught to think deeply and explore ideas for herself.
Her aunt also had her instructed in "Spun glass, Stuffed birds, and modeled flowers in wax,/ Because she liked accomplishments in girls" (425-426). So in the narrow mind of her aunt's she considered the ability to do crafts an accomplishment for women. After the list of Aurora Leigh's education is drawn out, there is an interesting side bar. Barrett Browning adds "By the way,/ The works of women are symbolical./ We sew...producing what...at best, a cushion...and dream of something we are not..." (455-462). She introduces the line subtlety but actually this is the sum of her belief. Women produce goods that are trivial, not necessary in life. This affects the worth of the woman, not only in monetary value but in their esteem. Therefore the value of women in society is low for what they produce is of little worth.
Through this strict upbringing Aurora Leigh's personality persisted. At age twenty she
The Enlightenment is known as the revolution that brought to question the traditional political and social structures. This included the question of the woman’s traditional roles in society. As the public sphere relied more and more ?? and the advances in scientific and educated thinking, women sought to join in with the ranks of their male counterparts. Women held gatherings known as salons where they organized intellectual conversations with their distinguished male guests. Seeking to further their status, enlightened women published pamphlets and other works advocating for educational rights and political recognition. Even with this evolution of woman in society, many still clung to the belief that the role of the woman was solely
I chose to compare and contrast two women authors from different literary time periods. Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) as a representative of the Victorian age (1832-1901) and Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) as the spokeswoman for the Modernist (1914-1939) mindset. Being women in historical time periods that did not embrace the talents and gifts of women; they share many of the same issues and themes throughout their works - however, it is the age in which they wrote that shaped their expressions of these themes. Although they lived only decades apart their worlds were remarkably different - their voices were muted or amplified according to the beat of society's drum.
In eighteenth century which feminist in social status was not popular by that time, author can only through literature to express her thought and discontented about society. Jane Austen’s Emma advocates a concept about the equality of men and women. Also satirizes women would depend on marriage in exchange to make a living or money in that era. By the effect of society bourgeois, Emma has little self-arrogant. She is a middle class that everyone could admire, “Young, pretty, rich and clever”, she has whatever she needs. She disdains to have friends with lower levels. However, she is soon reach satisfaction with matchmaking for her friend. Story characterizes a distorted society images and the superiority of higher class status. It
This directly shows that women were not expected to study science, and that they were to be taught “agreeable knowledge” which is domesticated responsibilities that create a suitable wife. Luckily for Emilie, she met Voltaire who understood her brilliance, and he gave her a way to break away from social norms. Voltaire wrote to a friend that “There's a woman in Paris, named Emilie who outdoes everyone in intelligence” (69). This was incredible because he did not compare her to other women, but instead he placed Emilie above everyone.
The education women received during the romantic era was very different to today. Professor of English at the Arizona State University and author of six books on literature by women, Devoney Looser, explains how women during this time received very little schooling, were taught different materials than men, and were taught in schools that were specifically for their gender (Looser 1). In these schools, they were not taught politics, economics, or classical studies as those topics were specifically for men; instead they would learn art, music, and sewing. Upper-class women and middle-class women were taught how to be proper wives and mothers by learning how to do domestic tasks, such as sewing and needlework (Looser 1). Women who were not
Virginia Woolf saw it the same way; in how women of a time before the eighteenth century had little to no history of prominent women as literary artists or in general. In her essay, Woolf states that there is very little mention in history of women, and if mentioned they usually happen to be a royal lady such as an Elizabeth or Mary. A middle-class woman could never participate in such a movement of acknowledgment, even if she had brains and character to dispense. No average Elizabethan woman ever just wrote her story, regardless of the circumstance of the era, because she would have been “snubbed, slapped, lectured, and exhorted”(Jacobus 702). It was proven that there are just few exceptions in evidence, such as women’s letters (Jacobus 695-696).
Elizabeth Browning, throughout the novel shows the scholar the importance of the feminist movement. Browning took a different approach in Aurora Leigh than other domestic novels of the Victorian Era. Interestingly, Browning sets the tone of book 1 and 2 around the pursuit of education and career of Aurora Leigh. Aurora shows the difficulty of a heroine character trying to go through
Aurora Leigh" tells the story of the development of a woman poet largely as the story of her struggle to understand how her life and art can accommodate love. Aurora Leigh envies male poets because they find it possible to
A woman's awareness of sewing, cooking and caring for her family was the extent of the knowledge society felt her brain should go. In the 1800's knowledge for women meant that they were less pure and even considered masculine at times. With a woman's purpose being solely connected to her reproductive
Aurora Leigh is a poem or more so a novel; that tells us the story of a young woman, and how she developed into the person, she has become. We learn of her endeavors from childhood to adulthood. As a child, she lost both her mother and father and now lives with her father’s sister in a country she’s never been before. Upon meeting her aunt, Aurora could tell that her aunt lives a caged birds’ life and slowly began to realize of her newly caged life. While living with her aunt she is taught things that young women of her age must learn, and through her lessons and observation of the world, she discovers herself and the strength to pursue her freedom and individuality.
The Victorian Age was a period of development and redefining social conventions. Throughout the chaos enveloping the changing world, literature from the time period reveals profound concepts which aligns with the dynamic reinvention of societal constructs. Literature from the Victorian Era addresses the importance of art, staging it as a hindrance or benefit to society. Antagonistic views referring to the representation of art reflects the confusion and controversy of the time. The poem, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Tennyson and the epic novel, Aurora Leigh, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning both stress the significance of art in society.
Finally, the priority of female sovereignty is prevalent In Elizabeth’s work. The independence of women is one of the central themes in “Aurora Leigh” in fact, this acts as a hidden agenda not only in the actions of Aurora but also in Elizabeth’s own life. The ambition for female self-determination is clear in “Aurora Leigh’ when Aurora points herself as a writer by crowning herself with ivy. While Aurora crowns herself, she argues the need to prove herself worthy:
The late 18th century can be known as the historical period of the Enlightenment. During this time, society was undergoing drastic changes that would impact people even today. These changes were known as “reforms,” and played a big role in politics and ruling during this time period. One of the bigger reforms of this time was that which would grant women a higher education and place them in a position closer to their male counterparts. The enlightenment authors, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft, took part in a debate in which they argued about the purpose and education of women. In an article recently written in The New York Times by Nicholas
Throughout the course of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life, poetry played the hand of fate. All of the major events that took place in her life seem to coincide with her poetry. Poetry made her famous. It gave her solace, and comfort, somewhere to drown her sorrow. It introduced her to her husband, and (indirectly) divorced her from her father. Poetry was not only a part of her life, but an integral part of her soul.
Due to their lack of educational opportunities during the Victorian era, women were more educated in domesticity, while men were taught in various subjects. Wollstonecraft describes the education that women receive to be “a disorderly kind of education” (161). If women were given equal educational opportunities as men, then it would allow them to become more empowered. Wollstonecraft states, “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience…” (163). Meaning that by providing women with a educational equivalent to men, then it would put an end to women having to be reliant on men and be able to independent. Therefore, women will not have to feel inferior to their male counterparts. She encourages women to become more empowered and challenge the gender constructs of society.