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|Reading the language of attire :clothing and identity in Frances Hodgson Burnett, Edith Nesbit and Beatrix Potter
|This thesis explores how a selection of British children‟s stories written by three female authors between 1880 and 1915 reflected and contributed through verbal and pictorial sartorial images to the construction of a new version of identity: one that is not determined by birth and thus cannot be contained by established mechanisms of control. Scholarship in queer theory has already drawn attention to how dress is employed in literature and popular culture to construct identity, but this thesis draws attention to the centrality of dress images in the gradual construction of more liberated versions of not only gender, but also national and class identity. By providing three substantial case studies involving rigorous close reading of the language of dress, this study also lays the foundations for future research. This thesis consists of an introduction, five chapters and a conclusion. Using Beatrix Potter‟s The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907), the Introduction argues that reading the language of attire permits a more nuanced understanding of how a story participates in the discursive construction of identities through a discussion of images of dress, undress and cross-dressing. Chapter Two examines images of dress in the popular press, to illustrate how clothing was closely involved in socio-political discourses and how it both expressed and influenced contemporary (often contesting) constructions of identity. Chapter Three explores how in some nineteenth-century children‟s texts the bodies of animals were implicated in socio-political discourses. Close reading reveals a shift over the course of the century, from clothed animals largely being used to confirm existing social structures to their use to challenge and even transgress existing social boundaries. The chapter explores the implications of this change on constructions of identity that emerge as more negotiable. The next three chapters are based on reading the language of clothing in selected stories by, respectively, Burnett, Nesbit and Potter, focusing on the relationship between clothing and identity. Finally, the Conclusion offers a sartorial reading of a select list of texts belonging to other genres, written in other countries and at other times, to suggest the possibilities of future research in this area. Key texts discussed are Burnett‟s A Little Princess, Being the Whole Story of Sara Crewe Now Told for the First Time (1905), Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The 3 Secret Garden (1911) as well as the lesser-known The Lost Prince (1915). My discussion of Nesbit involves the three stories about the Bastable children in The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899), The Wouldbegoods (1901) and The New Treasure Seekers (1904). In Potter‟s case, I examine the well-known Peter Rabbit stories as well as a range of others, such as The Tale of the Two Bad Mice (1904), The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (1905), The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (1906), The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908), The Tale of Samuel Whiskers (1908), The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909), The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse (1910), The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911), The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan (1911) and The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913).
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|School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics
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|Jeikner, A 2014.pdf
|Thesis. N.B. Figure 1.7 painting by Thomas Gainsborough, The Blue Boy (1770) p.21, p.23, p.326 © courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections'
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