Ophelia and Victorian Visual Culture
Representing Body Politics in the Nineteenth Century
Kimberly Rhodes's interdisciplinary book is the first to explore fully the complicated representational history of Shakespeare's Ophelia during the Victorian period. In nineteenth-century Britain, the shape, function and representation of women's bodies were typically regulated and interpreted by public and private institutions, while emblematic fictional female figures like Ophelia functioned as idealized templates of Victorian womanhood. Rhodes examines the widely disseminated representations of Ophelia, from works by visual artists and writers, to interpretations of her character in contemporary productions of Hamlet, revealing her as a nexus of the struggle for the female body's subjugation. By considering a broad range of materials, including works by Anna Lea Merritt, Elizabeth Siddal, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Everett Millais, and paying special attention to images women produced, Rhodes illuminates Ophelia as a figure whose importance crossed class and national boundaries. Her analysis yields fascinating insights into 'high' and mass culture and enables transnational comparisons that reveal the compelling associations among Ophelia, gender roles, body image and national identity.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; 'Pretty Opelia': mid-century ideals in the parlor; 'Pretty Ophelia': mid-century ideals at the Royal Academy; The pre-Raphaelite crisis; From life: Ophelia and photography; Performance anxiety: pictorial and theatrical representations at the fin-de-siècle; Bibliography; Appendix; Index.
Kimberly Rhodes is Associate Professor of Art History at Drew University, USA
'Kimberly Rhodes has uncovered a veritable explosion in visual representations of Ophelia in the Victorian period, bringing to bear her considerable talents as a close reader to demonstrate how this tragic heroine embodied Victorian anxieties about gender, sexuality, and normalcy. In a perceptive twist, Rhodes shows how women artists and actresses reinvented the pathetic figure of Ophelia as the agent of their professional success. A model study for anyone interested in visual culture.' Anne Helmreich, Case Western Reserve University, USA.
'Well documented with period criticism and artists' writings...this thoroughly interdisciplinary study merges literature, art, and theater. It also will interest scholars in gender studies and visual culture...Recommended.’ Choice