Date of Award

9-6-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Christopher Orchard, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Comfort, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael T. Williamson, Ph.D.

Abstract

The present dissertation offers a critical analysis of the nineteenth-century patriarchal oppression of women in selected novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. It also analyzes the intricate correlation of patriarchy and capitalism that achieve their desire of capital accumulation by taking advantage of female oppression. This will be seen in relation to religion, sexual division of labor, and class. In each chapter, I unveil the strategies, ideologies, and stereotypes patriarchy applies to women as well as to other oppressed groups such as slaves and the working classes in order to manipulate power, dominance, and capital for themselves, thereby objectifying and instrumentalizing the other oppressed groups in the process. This dissertation also shows how Gaskell, Brontë, Stowe, and Phelps critique, dismantle, and undermine hegemonic patriarchal and capitalist discourses. These feminist women writers examine the position of women in relation to religion, labor, and class. They seek to empower women in each area through calling for equality and justice as women's rights. They emphasize women's rights of sermonizing, of having equal job opportunities, and of living in a cooperative, classless society. This study shows that the four women writers do not approve the patriarchal practices that dictate submission and passivity. Through their women protagonists and characters, they are able to represent the early feminists who resisted oppression and sought justice. This dissertation employs the theories of Marxist feminism and ecofeminism in its analysis of oppression and resistance. Marxist feminism helps analyze the conspiratorial interplay of patriarchy and capitalism. It makes use of the theories of traditional Marxists and Socialist feminists in its quest of dismantling such oppressive structures. Ecofeminism is also employed to highlight the four women writers' comprehensive vision of interdependence, cooperation, and interrelationships between men and women.

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