Aurora Leigh and Gender Struggle

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The “Better” Sex: The Victorian Women’s Struggle for Artistic RightsDuring the Victorian era, women were expected to be children-bearers and mother.

Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Browning has proven to be a long battle for a woman’s right to gobeyond domesticity and her status as a mere women by achieving a career as a poet, whichreceived disapproval from society. Elizabeth Browning has transformed a rebellious andpassionate feline woman into a successful poet. Due to the restrictions based upon women in theVictorian society has limited the freedom and ideas of one’s beliefs, gender plays a verysignificant role that separates men and women into their own separate spheres on their careers. Iwill be arguing that both sexes have their own share of struggle on achieving the position as apoet. However, my focus will on women, specifically on Aurora Leigh. The complicationsexperienced are more difficult and personal for women than men due to gender and societydifferences, which could lead to struggle for success.

Due to these restrictions on women during Aurora’s time, our heroine “dares to defycontemporary and traditional attitudes towards women, female writers in particular” (Enotes).

Even from the disapproval of society, there are occasions when female writers encourage womento go beyond their traditional status and engage in men activities. The conflict Aurora encountersrelates to her both as a woman and poet such that many feminist critics argued that this “novel-poem enacts a triumphant reconciliation of “woman” and “artist,” which necessarily rejectsmany aspects of the conventional Victorian dichotomy between femininity and artistic power(Case, 18). My argument will involve Aurora’s social circle and their opinions before her epicjourney towards her career, including her aunt’s remarks on her rejection of Romney’s proposaland her turmoil conversation with Romney in Book II stating that women can never be poets butrather “doting mothers, and perfect wives” (Book II, line 222). I will also include references ofmale poets approximately during the same time period as Aurora and compare their style andsuccesses and state, if any, the major conflicts the “better sex” had as an artist. The main poet Ihave in interest is William Wordsworth. In The Romantic Poet as a Woman Author, Blake statesthat Browning “draw much from Wordsworth but was too self-consciously a woman poet tounderestimate sexual difference (Blake, Vol 24). Gelpi states that Aurora struggles with an outerand inner identity involving “woman’s feelings about herself, particularly about her femininity”(Gelpsi, Vol 19). To achieve the desired position as a poet, Aurora needs to gain back her lossfemininity and use that to inspire her. Wordsworth will be taken into context as a support andcontrast for the men and women during the Victorian society on poets and artists.

BibliographyBrowning, Elizabeth Barrett (1856) Aurora Leigh. Oxford University PressCase, Alison (1991) Gender and Narration in Aurora Leigh. Victorian Poetry Volume 29, No.1 pp 17-32. West Virginia University PressGelpi, Barbara Charlesworth (1981) The Vocation of the Woman Poet. Victorian Poetry, Vol. 19, No. 1 pp. 35-48. West Virginia University PressBlake, Kathleen (1986) Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Wordsworth: The Romantic Poet as a Woman. Victorian Poetry, Vol. 24, No. 4, Wordsworth among the Victorian, pp. 387-398. West Virginia University Press