“Motherhood and the Supernatural in 19th Century Literature” : An Exploration of Bleak House and “The Old Nurse’s Story”
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Understanding womanhood as represented in literature in the nineteenth century is a dense and layered topic, and comes out in many stories that highlight several perspectives. In the nineteenth century there were many communities of women, and men, writing about the experience of being a woman in an era that held such rigid and varying expectations for many communities of women. One of my key convictions in studying literature is holding myself, and my research and understanding of the study, to an expectation that intersectionality is crucially important when studying this era. Many nineteenth century writers, such as Charles Dickens, have been canonized, and while I will be emphasizing my analysis in Bleak House by Charles Dickens, I would like to add that there are many voices at work in the nineteenth century, outside of Dickens, who are just as valuable and crucial in understanding the many perspectives of womanhood in the nineteenth century. Womanhood was widely explored during this time alongside the many literary trends that defined the era. A key trend in the nineteenth century that I will be exploring in this project, alongside the idea of motherhood, is the Gothic, a literary trend that was popularized at first during the Romantic period and carried its influence through many movements of literature in the nineteenth century. While I do not like placing pieces of literature into staunch genres, as this takes away from the many intricacies and in many cases, revolutionary and exceptional, natures of a piece of literature, I will be using the Gothic genre to explore how nineteenth century writers used elements of the Gothic to explore thematic connections between motherhood, specifically, that of unwed motherhood, and elements of the supernatural, and how this became a literary trend and thematic concern.