Finding “A Self to Speak Of”: Affective Enactments of the Self in Black and White Victorian Women’s Elegies
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Hamner, M. Gail
Affect Theory, Gender, Race, Spiritualism, Victorian Studies
This thesis explores the genre of sentimental elegy within Antebellum Victorian America, drawing on affect studies, American religious history, and Black critical theory in order to contextualize the particular socio-political and religious influences that shaped the medium of the sentimental elegy and its role within Victorian America. This is punctuated by a close reading of six personal elegies written by Black and white women in the years 1855-1865. By attending to the differential application of sentimental norms about human bodies and their capacities for thought and feeling, this paper identifies the personal sentimental elegy as a technology of the self that was uniquely accessible to middle- and upper-class Victorian Americans, especially women, through which they mediated and navigated changing ideas about Christian cosmology, embodiment, and sentiment alongside their own personal and existential griefs. Although sentimental elegy is often reduced to one single and comprehensive genre, this project’s comparison of the different themes and motives that undergird elegies written by Black and white Victorian women complicates this tendentious categorization and encourages a re-examination of the medium.
Martinucci, Kellie-Sue, "Finding “A Self to Speak Of”: Affective Enactments of the Self in Black and White Victorian Women’s Elegies" (2022). Theses - ALL. 651.