Unfeminine Legacies from The Woman in White (1860) to Six Chapters of a Man’s Life (1903)

Hannah Calderazzo

Authors: Hannah Calderazzo

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Yan

College:  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


My project traces concepts of the unfeminine from Wilkie Collins’s sensation novel The Woman in White (1860) to Victoria Cross’s New Woman fiction in Six Chapters of a Man’s Life (1903). Both texts feature female characters who defy Victorian standards of femininity. Marian Halcombe of The Woman in White is regarded as “ugly,” with “almost a moustache,” yet the narrator Hartright admits to the “rare beauty of her form” when he meets her. Cecil, the narrator of Six Chapters of a Man’s Life meets a similar female character, Theodora, who also has a mustache and looks “like a young fellow of nineteen.” Though Theodora is unconventional in her appearance and character, Cecil grows more attracted to her with each visit. I examine these characters’ unfeminine appearances, in combination with their radical desirability, suggesting that parallels between Marian and Theodora establish a firm embodied connection between these two Victorian genres as they construct concepts of attraction and the “unfeminine.”

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