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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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Notes 149


Notes Chapter One 1. Elizabeth Gaskell, Ruth, ed. Alan Shelston (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) 69. 2. Bourke, “The Baby and the Bathwater: Cultural Loss in Nineteenth-Century Ireland,” Ideology and Ireland in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Tadhg Foley and Seán Ryder (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998) 81. 3. Nicola Bown, Fairies in Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) 13. 4. Joseph Ritson, Fairy Tales (London: Payne and Foss, 1831) 27. 5. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, trans. Richard Howard (Cleveland & London: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973) 25. 6. Lewis Spence, British Fairy Origins (London: Watts & Co., 1946) 82–3. 7. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight (London: A. H. Bullen, 1902) 8 and Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland, 3rd ed. (Gerrards Crossing: Colin Smythe Ltd., 1988) 6. 8. Yeats, Fairy and Folk 11–12. 9. For photo reproductions, see Maas et al., Victorian Fairy Painting, ed. Jane Martineau (London: Royal Academy of Arts and Merrell Holbertson Publishers, 1997). 10. Carole G. Silver, Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 175. 11. Spence, 138–9. 12. In “Fairy Tales, Old Wives, and Printing Presses,” History Today 54.1 (2004): 38–44, Ruth Bottigheimer argues that fairy tales originated in print tradition. Any connection between illiterate folk and later fairy tales represents a clever marketing ploy. 13. See “The Tellers” in Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairytales and Their...

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