Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth

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Harvard University Press, Jan 1, 1982 - Demonology in literature - 255 pages
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Here is a bold new vision of Victorianculture: a study of myths of womanhoodthat shatters the usual generalizationsabout the squeezed, crushed, and ego-less Victorian woman.

Through copious examples drawn fromliterature, art, and biography, Auerbachreconstructs three central paradigms:the angel/demon, the old maid, and thefallen woman. She shows how these animate a pervasive Victorian vision of amobile female outcast with divine anddemonic powers. Fear of such disruptive, self-creating figures, Auerbach argues, produces the approved ideal of thedutiful, family-bound woman. The awethey inspire associates them with characters in literature, the only vehicles ofimmortality in whom most Victorianscould unreservedly believe.

Auerbach looks at a wonderful variety ofsources: Svengali, Dracula, and Freud;poets and major and minor novelistsCarlyle, John Stuart Mill, and Ruskin;lives of women, great and unknown;Anglican sisterhoods and Magdalenhomes; bardolatry and the theater; Pre- Raphaelite paintings and contemporarycartoons and book illustrations. Reinterpreting a medley of fantasies, she demonstratesthat female powers inspired a vivid mythcentral to the spirit of the age.

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About the author (1982)

Nina Auerbach is Associate Professor ofEnglish, University of Pennsylvania.

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