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Water and Women in the Victorian Imagination


Edited By Béatrice Laurent

During the Victorian period, naturally wet spaces – marshland, rivers and the sea – were construed as feminised loci, articulating contrasted visions of Woman as the angelic Undine or the demonic Siren. This essentialised the concept of feminine fluidity at the same time as it supported the construction of a standard masculinity defined by stability. The conundrum of solidity versus liquidity created a dialectical bond which was often one of subjection: water had to serve matter. It had to be purified, tamed and channelled to become an available and reliable commodity.

The facts, objects, texts of fiction and non-fiction, art and other visual sources presented in this volume may seem to share nothing other than their concerns with water and women in nineteenth-century Britain. Yet, by juxtaposing the figures of Ophelia and the Mermaid, scenes of shipwrecks, accounts of hydrotherapy cures, acts of Parliament on sanitation, and other material, the author argues that these various and apparently unrelated texts converge towards a central mythical figure, the «water woman».

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Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Laurent, Béatrice, author.

Title: Water and women in the Victorian imagination / Béatrice Laurent.

Description: Oxford ; New York : Peter Lang, 2021. | Series: Cultural interactions: studies in the relationship between the arts, 16620364 ; vol 45 | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2020030740 (print) | LCCN 2020030741 (ebook) | ISBN 9781789974867 (paperback) | ISBN 9781789974874 (ebook) | ISBN 9781789974881 (epub) | ISBN 9781789974898 (mobi)

Subjects: LCSH: Women in literature. | Femininity in literature. | Water in literature. | Water in art. | Water and civilization--Great Britain. | Femininity--Great Britain--History--19th century. | English literature--19th century--Themes, motives.

Classification: LCC PR468.W6 L38 2021 (print) | LCC PR468.W6 (ebook) | DDC 820.9/9287--dc23

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