In this ambitious work Anita Levy exposes certain forms of middle-class power that have been taken for granted as "common sense" and "laws of nature." Joining an emergent tradition of cultural historians who draw on Gramsci and Foucault, she shows how middle-class hegemony in the nineteenth century depended on notions of gender to legitimize a culture-specific and class-specific definition of the right and wrong ways of being human. The author examines not only domestic fiction, particularly Emily Bront's Wuthering Heights, but also nineteenth-century works of the human sciences, including sociological tracts, anthropological treatises, medical texts, and psychological studies. She finds that British intellectuals of the period produced gendered standards of behavior that did not so much subordinate women to men as they authorized the social class whose women met norms of "appropriate" behavior: this class was considered to be peculiarly fit to care for other social and cultural groups whose women were "improperly" gendered. When Levy reads fiction against the social sciences, she demonstrates that the history of fiction cannot be understood apart from the history of the human sciences. Both fiction and science share common narrative strategies for representing the "essential" female and "other women"--the prostitute, the "primitive," and the madwoman. Only fiction, however, represented these strategies in an idiom of everyday life that verified "theory" and "science."
Originally published in 1990.
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