Gender at Work in Victorian Culture: Literature, Art and Masculinity, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Gender at Work in Victorian Culture

Literature, Art and Masculinity, 1st Edition

By Martin A. Danahay


200 pages

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Martin A. Danahay's lucidly argued and accessibly written volume offers a solid introduction to important issues surrounding the definition and division of labor in British society and culture. 'Work,' Danahay argues, was a term rife with ideological contradictions for Victorian males during a period when it was considered synonymous with masculinity. Male writers and artists in particular found their labors troubled by class and gender ideologies that idealized 'man's work' as sweaty, muscled labor and tended to feminize intellectual and artistic pursuits. Though many romanticized working-class labor, the fissured representation of the masculine body occasioned by the distinction between manual labor and 'brain work' made it impossible for them to overcome the Victorian class hierarchy of labor. Through cultural studies analyses of the novels of Dickens and Gissing; the nonfiction prose of Carlyle, Ruskin and Morris; the poetry of Thomas Hood; paintings by Richard Redgrave, William Bell Scott, and Ford Madox Brown; and contemporary photographs, including many from the Munby Collection, Danahay examines the ideological contradictions in Victorian representations of men at work. His book will be a valuable resource for scholars and students of English literature, history, and gender studies.


'What was the ideological work of "work" in Victorian culture? How did it inform, and to what extent disconcert, the construction of masculine identities and the reproduction of gendered and classed subjects? What were the links between the idea of work, the practice of authorship and the exercise of authority? Shuttling nimbly from Mill to Marx, from text to image, and from Bleak House to New Grub Street, Martin Danahay weaves a vivid and detailed account of the cultural expression, and psychological cost, of the Victorian conviction that productive work was "the basis for all definitions of human value".' Trev Lynn Broughton, Centre for Women's Studies and Department of English and Related Literature, University of York, UK ’…scrupulous research into recent scholarship…’ Brontë Studies ’Danahay deserves praise for both introducing new evidence to the debate and for developing innovative ways of approaching familiar ground. In particular, the authro's analysis of visual imagery is precise and elucidating. Danahay's analysis of Munby's obsession with the physical attributes of both men and women as they related to labor is especially compelling… a thoughtful and thought-provoking book that should be of interest to scholars of Victorian gender, culture, and labor…’ Journal of British Studies ’Danahay's recurring theme is how the valorizaton of physical labour in the nineteenth-century effected an undermining of the intellectual work of writers and artists and he offers a convincing overall argument… One of the most pleasing aspects of Gender at Work is Danahay's clear theoretical positioning. His book is firmly situated in relation to recent texts in the field of masculinity studies… Another rewarding aspect of Danahay's study is the close visual and textual analysis he undertakes… Accessibly but rigorously written, Danahay's book is a welcome addition to the study of Victorian masculinities… valuable contributions to any art histor

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: working definitions; Victorian work and industry; Gendering work in the 1840s; Dickens, work and sexuality; Ford Madox Brown and the division of labor; Perversity at work: Munby and Cullwick; John Ruskin, digging; Gissing and the demise of the man at work; Conclusion: new women, new technologies and new work; Works Cited; Index.

About the Author

Martin A. Danahay is Professor of English at Brock University and writes on Victorian culture, autobiography and the impact of new technologies on society. Working at the intersection of literature, art, and social history, his articles have addressed topics from the representation of music hall by Walter Sickert to the poetry and paintings of Dante Gabriel as "virtual" subjects. He has also published analyses of such contemporary popular culture artifacts as the Matrix films and the autobiography of Kathie Lee Gifford. These publications are united by an attention to "cultural production" in its all its manifestations, ranging from poetry to photography. His book-length publications include A Community of One: Masculine Autobiography and Autonomy in Nineteenth Century Britain and editions of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds.

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature