Flowers as representations of female virtue in nineteenth-century emblems and emblematic works

Haverly, Ciara Mireille (2020) Flowers as representations of female virtue in nineteenth-century emblems and emblematic works. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Compared to the emblem in the Renaissance, the nineteenth-century emblem revival remains largely ignored in the field of Emblem Studies, as does the role of women as creators of emblematic works. This thesis uses the paradigm of activity and passivity as observed by Laura Mulvey to examine the role of women in the nineteenth-century emblematic revival, in particular their role as image. Flowers were an important visual touchstone in the nineteenth century, and they were closely associated with the feminine as both women and flowers were visual objects. The nineteenth century saw a codification of gender roles that was well suited to the emblem as a didactic genre. For women, virtue was of the upmost importance, which in a nineteenth-century context was understood as a twofold concept of chastity and domesticity.
This thesis is principally comprised of two sections. In the first part, I use a close reading of a number of works in the Stirling Maxwell Collection at the University of Glasgow to explore developments in the format and content of the emblem during the nineteenth-century revival. These works fall into three distinct categories; new editions of emblem books published prior to 1800, new emblem books from nineteenth-century authors, and works in the emblematic Language of Flowers genre. Through the use of flowers, the older emblem books create a definition of female virtue that resonates with the nineteenth-century understanding of feminine virtue. The new emblem books of the nineteenth century are beholden to the earlier tradition, especially that of Francis Quarles, though the principal of text/image interdependence is lost in the newer tradition. In its format, the Language of Flowers challenges the gendered silencing in the fields of botany and emblematics, but in content, it maintains the male traditions.
The second section comprises a case study, using the images of the lily and the rose to examine the problematisation of gender in a selection of works by five creators; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Christina Rossetti, and George Eliot. Away from the moral teachings of the emblem, these works utilise floral emblematics to explore the tensions inherent in the role of women as image. The gendered dynamic of activity/passivity as the relationship between gaze and visual object is challenged, as is the projection of the Ideal onto the visual object.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: french, emblem studies, emblems, nineteenth century, emblematics, text/image studies, flowers, floral, femininity, women.
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > French
Supervisor's Name: Grove, Professor Laurence
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Ms Ciara M Haverly
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81871
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2020 13:51
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2022 17:04
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81871

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