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What is a Woman to Do?

A Reader on Women, Work and Art, c. 1830-1890


Edited By Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi and Patricia Zakreski

This anthology contributes to a scholarly understanding of the aesthetics and economics of female artistic labour in the Victorian period. It maps out the evolution of the Woman Question in a number of areas, including the status and suitability of artistic professions for women, their engagement with new forms of work and their changing relationship to the public sphere. The wealth of material gathered here – from autobiographies, conduct manuals, diaries, periodical articles, prefaces and travelogues – traces the extensive debate on women’s art, feminism and economics from the 1830s to the 1890s.
Combining for the first time nineteenth-century criticism on literature and the visual arts, performance and craftsmanship, the selected material reveals the different ideological positions surrounding the transition of women from idleness to serious occupation. The distinctive primary sources explore the impact of artistic labour upon perceptions of feminine sensibility and aesthetics, the conflicting views of women towards the pragmatics of their own creative labour as they encompassed vocations, trades and professions, and the complex relationship between paid labour and female fame and notoriety.


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Acknowledgements xiii


Acknowledgements This book has been a long time in the making, and we have accumulated many debts of gratitude along the way. Colleagues and friends have been very helpful with their suggestions for pieces that might be included. Particular thanks go to Katie Halsey, Sally-Anne Huxtable, Sondeep Kandola, Pamela Gerrish Nunn, Kimiyo Ogawa, Angelique Richardson, Talia Schaf fer, and Ana Parejo Vadillo. We would also like to thank our students at the Universities of Bath Spa, Bristol, Cyprus, Exeter, Plymouth, and Stirling who have acted over the years as guinea pigs to test out the usability of extracts for teaching purposes. Finally, thanks go to editor of this series, Barrie Bullen, and the publishing team at Peter Lang, especially Hannah Godfrey, Shirley Walker Werrett, and Alexis Kirschbaum, for their patience while they waited for this project to come to fruition. We also owe a dif ferent debt to our families, particularly our partners, Joe Kember and John Plunkett, not only for reading and commenting on the manuscript but more importantly for putting up with all the late nights and cof fee demands that have made this anthology possible.

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