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Author

Emily Whitted

Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Elisabeth Gruner

Abstract

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810-1865) was a Victorian writer whose many novels shed light on the daily life of various social tiers during the Industrial Revolution, and many of her stories were taken under the wing of Dickens and published serially in Household Words. Much of her work is still critically hidden under the wing of Dickens, and does not receive as much acclaim for messages of social reform, poverty, and mill town life as Dickens’s work consistently does. Her novels are richly detailed, as the Victorian style tends to be, but most especially detailed about the intimate daily life of women. The meticulous detail Gaskell provides rounds out the depiction of women’s work into a multi-faceted portrayal: she ironically parallels female domestic productivity with the work of large textile mills, and she analyzes all female craft communities, as well as revealing aesthetic and creative merit in the work itself. Most importantly, Gaskell takes full advantage of the feminization of handiwork in order to arm her female characters with a language so relevant in the time period that it transcends the private and public spheres and bolsters women’s voices. They are represented in the clothing they wear, in the objects they create and exchange, and in the handicraft they practice.

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