Victorian Literature and Culture



THE TRANSFIGURATIONS OF CAROLINE NORTON


Kieran Dolin a1
a1 University of Western Australia

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THIS PAPER AIMS TO CONTRIBUTE to the resurgent study of relations between literature and the visual arts in nineteenth-century England by exploring a variety of representations of the highly visible poet and law reformer, Caroline Norton.1 One aspect of these intersecting discourses is the image of the author and the processes and effects of its representation. Linda M. Shires in “The Author as Spectacle and Commodity” argues for the inseparable but potentially troubling relation between literary authority and authorial spectacle in Victorian England. Some authors embraced theatrical self-display, others presented a more reserved image to their public. Whereas, Shires suggests, “the need to shape the self through display” (202) was increasingly accepted as a strategy for literary success, the countervailing social pressures on women writers to shun the immodest exposure of publication have been demonstrated by Dorothy Mermin in Godiva’s Ride. Perhaps no writer illustrates the tension created by these opposed imperatives more graphically than Caroline Norton.



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