By Susan David Bernstein
Susan Bernstein examines the gendered strength relationships embedded in confessional literature of the Victorian interval. Exploring this dynamic in Charlotte Bront?'s "Villette" Mary Elizabeth Braddon's "Lady Audley's mystery" George Eliot's "Daniel Deronda" and Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" she argues that even supposing women's disclosures to male confessors many times depict wrongdoing dedicated opposed to them, they themselves are considered because the transgressors. Bernstein emphasizes the secularization of confession, yet she additionally areas those narratives in the context of the anti-Catholic tract literature of the time.
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Extra info for Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture
Instead of reworking these recent portrayals of confessional subjects women who disclose violations and the substance of these misdeedsI want only to gesture toward the analogy to suggest that the ambiguities of power surrounding acts of self-revelation in Victorian narratives have not been resolved by any means, even if the terms and degrees of the representations of transgressive women have shifted. George Eliot's novel is uncertain about whether the egotistical Gwendolen deserves the marital torture she endures under the dominion of her wretched husband, whether she deserves the plot's death-in-life sentence for her attempt to retaliate physically against Grandcourt's brutality.
Confessional Subjects examines the cultural codes of gender difference that shape assorted confessional narratives. 7 Moreover, Butler contends that the emphasis on simple gender divisions reinforces the structure of power relations where one gender and sexualitymasculinity and heterosexualityis dominant, the "other" gender and sexualityfemininity and homosexualityis subordinate. My reliance on the conventional gender binary in this study results from my overall definition of confession as a discourse that does fortify traditional structures of power in Victorian culture.
Whereas confession is a discourse of power, power is not necessarily and not only an adverse form of domination. Indeed, Foucault suggests that power, as a mode of action, can also mean an opening up of possibilities. Throughout Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture, I take the position that confession is largely a site of coercion, especially given its early institutional authority, the father confessor. But I also contend that any system of domination is marked by contradictions, by points of inconsistency and ambivalence within a governing ideology, within a pervasive scheme of representation.