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Of marriageable age : rethinking approaches to father-daughter incest narratives in the long eighteenth century


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Delaney, EA 2005 , 'Of marriageable age : rethinking approaches to father-daughter incest narratives in the long eighteenth century', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis examines father-daughter incest in three literary works of the long
eighteenth century within a frame of the marriage exchange gone wrong. The
representation of father-daughter incest in this period, unlike contemporary incest
stories that feature girl-children, focuses on the daughter of marriageable age, a
prominent figure in eighteenth-century literature. The incest is often precipitated
at the moment that the father should be planning a marriage alliance for his
daughter but instead begins to see her as a sexual being. The three texts examined
in the thesis are Jane Barker's Exilius, or The Banish 'd Roman (published in
1714), Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Cenci and Mary Shelley's Mathilda, both
written in 1819. The chapters are structured around the three main characters
within the incest plot — the daughter, the suitor(s), and the father. In these texts,
the daughter is past the age of consent, is a desiring subject herself and knows she
is the incestuous object of her biological father. The texts, in which father-daughter
incest is structurally and thematically central, belong to the wider literary
and social debates about marriage and the daughter of marriageable age, which
dominate the century. This thesis focuses on the female characters/daughters of
marriageable age as they struggle to bring their incest experiences into language,
and as they live out the consequences of that experience. The domestic space is a
potentially dangerous one for daughters. Each of these narratives of father-daughter
incest also has political implications. A close reading of the male figures
— the suitor(s) and the fathers — brings to light a Jacobite reading in Exilius, a
critique of the worst kind of patriarchal society in The Cenci and a criticism of a
society that allows excesses and self indulgence in Mathilda.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Delaney, EA
Keywords: Barker, Jane, Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 1792-1822, Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851 Criticism and interpretation, Incest in literature
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2005 the author

Additional Information:

Available for library use only and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2007. Includes bibliographical references. Preface. What's in a kiss? -- Introduction. The daughter, marriage and incest -- Ch. 1. The daughter -- Ch. 2. The suitor(s) -- Ch. 3. The father -- Conclusion

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