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Folklore in British Literature

Naming and Narrating in Women’s Fiction, 1750-1880

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Sarah R. Wakefield

Folklore provides a metaphor for insecurity in British women’s writing published between 1750 and 1880. When characters feel uneasy about separations between races, classes, or sexes, they speak of mermaids and «Cinderella» to make threatening women unreal and thus harmless. Because supernatural creatures change constantly, a name or story from folklore merely reinforces fears about empire, labor, and desire. To illustrate these fascinating rhetorical strategies, this book explores works by Sarah Fielding, Ann Radcliffe, Sydney Owenson, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Anne Thackeray, and Jean Ingelow, pushing our understanding of allusions to folktales, fairy tales, and myths beyond «happily ever after.»

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List of Figures..................................................................................................... ix Acknowledgments .............................................................................................. xi Chapter One. Folklore as a Critical Tool ...................................................... 1 What’s in a Name? The Difficulty of Defining the Fairy Folk ................ 3 British Anxieties and Others, 1750–1880 ................................................. 10 Method: Uniting Feminist Criticism, Folklore, and Cultural Concerns.. 14 Readings in British Women’s Fiction ....................................................... 19 Chapter Two. “Things Totally Out of Nature”: Fairies and Fairy Tales in Eighteenth-Century Fiction ............................................. 23 “Innocent Diversions”: Fairy Tales in Fielding’s The Governess ........... 27 Fairies and the Female Condition in The Mysteries of Udolpho ............. 34 Chapter Three. “Syren Lure”: Folklore as National Rhetoric in The Wild Irish Girl .................................................................................. 45 Horatio’s Irish Fairy ................................................................................... 47 “My English Ossian”.................................................................................. 55 Chapter Four. Governesses, Émigrés, and Fairies: Implications of Folklore in the Novels of Charlotte Brontë......................................... 63 Jane Eyre, Fairy Tale, Folktale: A Close Reading ................................... 66 Shirley: Folklore between Female Friends................................................ 77 Villette: Folklore Goes to the Continent.................................................... 84 Chapter Five. George Eliot’s English Water–Nixies and Sad–Eyed Princesses ........................................................................... 97 Maggie and Folklore on the Floss ............................................................. 99 viii Folklore in British Literature The Mermaid of Middlemarch................................................................. 105 Daniel Deronda’s Demonic (un)Englishwomen .................................... 109 Chapter Six. Domesticating the Fairy Realm: Anne Thackeray and Jean Ingelow....................................................................................... 119 The Magic of English Living According to Thackeray ......................... 121 Captain Jack Forced from Fairyland ....................................................... 132 Afterword........................................................................................................ 145 Notes................................................................................................................. 149 Works Cited ..................................................................................................... 163 Index................................................................................................................. 173

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