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The sister narrative in turn -of -the -century British and *American novels

Patricia M. Dethlefs Brennan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


With Goblin Market as a touchstone for sororal values and a review of turn-of-the-century women's roles as foreground, this dissertation explores ways that sister narratives challenge master narratives such as Trollope's Ayala's Angel. Looking back to Goblin Market's narrative pattern, novelists use biological sisterhood to examine the threat that Other poses to the dominant culture, establishing a new tradition. ^ In Howards End, Forster uses the sisters' plot to subvert the master plot and position sisterhood as the core of a new family. Forster creates narrative oppositions and splits; examines Margaret's androgyny, role as mother-sister, and sororal betrayal; and recalls Rossetti's rescue plot. He uses the sisters' letters, books, and language to create a para-narrative that signifies their bond; he connects the sisters' narrative to myth to underscore their triumph. ^ In The Old Wives' Tale, Bennett uses the sister narrative to break with convention. He refutes Rossetti's sororal rescue plot, presenting a narrative that emerges from the shell of a dying tradition, resists depictions of woman as angelic or fallen, and protests against romantic love as prelude to married bliss. Bennett proves the resilience of sororal love by restoring the sisters' bond after a thirty-year separation. ^ Cather establishes a pattern of failed sisterhood that overturns Victorian family ideals. In the divided sisters in The Song of the Lark, The Professor's House, and Lucy Gayheart, the family outsider achieves success in the kingdom of art whereas the conventional sister becomes Other. Through Pauline Gayheart, Cather examines the dilemma of the mother-sister and honors the struggles of ordinary life. ^ In Plum Bun, Fauset offers African-American sisters whose narrative is complicated by the fact that one sister passes. Fauset's study of sororal love, betrayal, and reconciliation affirms Goblin Market values, reverses racial Otherness, and redefines the role of the romantic heroine. ^ Sister studies illuminate traditional treatments of the separate spheres in fiction, providing new ways to view traditional depictions of the family, romantic love, and women's roles at the turn of the century. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, American|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Brennan, Patricia M. Dethlefs, "The sister narrative in turn -of -the -century British and *American novels" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3034365.