Preaching silence: the disciplined self in the Victorian diary

Millim, Anne-Marie (2010) Preaching silence: the disciplined self in the Victorian diary. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the representations of the self as a cultural agent, both reacting to and actively shaping codes of social and artistic respectability, as displayed in the diaries of the canonical Victorian writers Lady Elizabeth Eastlake, Henry Crabb Robinson, George Eliot, George Gissing, John Ruskin and Gerard Manley Hopkins. It analyses the impact of wider ideological and social imperatives on the diarists’ subjective experience and reads their tendency to silence the self as a symptom of the cultural pressure to merge their private and public persona. These diaries represented a forum in which the diarists perpetually negotiated their own value within the Victorian ideology of productivity and thus not only reflect their inner world but also the cultural climate of the nineteenth century.
Chapter One traces the selected diarists’ reluctance to reveal private information, as well as their tendency to foreground professional productivity, to the social pressure to efface emotions relating to the self and to only cultivate those that nurtured the community. It identifies the similarities between the compulsive self-discipline advocated in the psychological discourse of the period, particularly Alexander Bain’s The Emotions and the Will (1859), and the willingness to both live up to and actively shape the cultural codes of respectability that Elizabeth Eastlake and Henry Crabb Robinson display in their diaries. Chapter Two compares and contrasts the desire for maximal professional productivity as exhibited in George Eliot’s and George Gissing’s diaries. Both worked obstinately in order to increase their own value: whereas Eliot sought to redeem her ‘guilt of the privileged,’ Gissing desperately needed to increase his financial solvency through literary output. Chapter Three discusses the ways in which John Ruskin’s diary helped him block out unrespectable and painful private experiences through transforming his obsessive desire to appropriate and “feel” visual experience into a professional task. Chapter Four shows that Gerard Manley Hopkins—because he was acutely concerned by his cultural otherness caused by his homosexuality—not only sought refuge and validation by joining the Jesuits, but by narrowing his realm of experience to nature, merged the private and the public self into the figure of the professional, asexual, dutiful and disinterested observer.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Diary, Victorian, self, photography, work ethic, self-improvement, emotion, self-policing, visual appropriation, homosexuality, self-restraint, codes of respectability, literary production
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Benchimol, Dr. Alex
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Dr Anne-Marie Millim
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-1532
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:42

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