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Folklore in British Literature

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


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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Acknowledgments xi


Acknowledgments FOR this project I owe debts to many wonderful people. First, my mother, Virginia Wakefield, and my aunt, Janet W. Davis, piqued my early interest in fairies and folklore. I likewise appreciate the support I received from my fa- ther, Terry Wakefield, and my sister, Kristina Hulverson. Katrin and Robert Burlin encouraged my undergraduate endeavors with Jane Eyre, and the Dorothy Nepper Marshall Fellows Program at Bryn Mawr College gave me the time, funding, and confidence to start the research that would snowball into a master’s thesis, dissertation, and first book. For invaluable advice on how to shape the project and connect its stray threads, I am very grateful to Gillian Adams, Betty Sue Flowers, Elizabeth Richmond Garza, Elizabeth Hedrick, and especially Carol MacKay, an inspi- ration both as a teacher and scholar. I also must thank Lisa L. Moore for di- recting me to The Wild Irish Girl, a rewarding find. For insights, cheerleading, and patient reading, I thank the accomplished women of the LGC (Elizabeth Andrews, Catherine Blatz, Lauren Dean, Ra- nia Gazawi, Cherish Hagen, Jennifer Klein, Michele LaCatena, Leah Lesnar, Stephanie Moore, Julie Nelson, Nancy Patout, Sarah Woodbury, Adrianne Woodward) and my 2000-2001 “Rhetoric of Fairy Tales” students at the University of Texas at Austin. Without the ample resources of the Fondren Library at Rice University and both the Perry-Castañeda Library and Harry Ransom Humanities Re- search Center at the University of Texas at Austin, I could not have com- pleted this project. Finally, for...

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