Creative Negativity: Four Victorian Exemplars of the Female Quest

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Stanford University Press, 2001 - Social Science - 275 pages
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Focusing on the early Modern and Victorian periods, the author finds covert revolutionaries in four female practitioners of a strategy she calls creative negativity. She opens up for inspection the lives and creative endeavors of poet-photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), novelist-essayist Anne Thackeray Ritchie (1837-1919), activist-spiritual leader Annie Besant (1847-1933), and actress-writer Elizabeth Robins (1862-1952).

Creative negativity grows out of either philosophical or emotional negativity; it evokes a focal point, often a place; it combines reality and illusion; it suggests a shift in magnitude, a sense of multifariousness or zooming out; it includes an altered sense of time by reaching backward, moving outside temporality, or attenuating time; and it evokes self-referentiality, an aesthetic or formal invocation in a work of art, a sense of self-consciousness in social contexts.

As she explores the interacting elements of creative negativity that their work exemplifies, the author demonstrates how the artistic and performative techniques employed by the four women provide them with the rhetorical tools with which they can construct, take apart, and reconstruct themselves. This uniquely interactive response propels the women through their successful enactments of the female quest. Their creative interpretations of their life experiences point up the distinctive ways in which women s self-expression can be reconceived as a manifestation of the female quest a voicing of multiple stories and selves, both within themselves and others, in myriad and fantastical domains of their own creation. Overall, this book provides a working model for seeing how a covert feminism operated during a key period of history.


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Creative Negativity and the Female Quest
The Singular Double Vision of Julia Margaret Cameron
SelfErasure and SelfCreation in Anne Thackeray Ritchie
The Multiple Deconversions of Annie Wood Besant
Elizabeth Robins Outperforms the New Woman

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About the author (2001)

Carol Hanbery MacKay is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Soliloquy in Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Consciousness Creating Itself.

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