• The Angel Rocks the House: An Unstable Icon

      O'Hara, Daniel T., 1948-; Henry, Katherine, 1956-; Fiske, Shanyn, 1974-; Savoy, Eric (Temple University. Libraries, 2012)
      The Angel in the House: An Unstable Icon examines the ways in which the figure named in Coventry Patmore's series of mid-nineteenth century poems provoked an anxiety that manifests itself consistently in British literature throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, where the family beacon, the one whose raison d'être was to guide her husband and children away from the immorality rife in the public sphere, instead actively interfered with the good instincts of her offspring, substituted her own wishes for theirs, and caused irreparable harm in the process. This dissertation analyzes the ways in which mother figures in mid-century novels interrogate the angel-mother in particular and suggest the destructive capability inherent in that figure. It argues that the literary questioning of the ideal supports what Poovey calls "uneven development" in the construction of a gender model. The Angel in the House: An Unstable Icon will demonstrate that at the hands of Thomas Hardy and Henry James in particular, the mother is reimagined into a figure bearing little resemblance to the Angel mother, except in her inheritance of a belief that the mother must remain her child's guide, despite the inclinations of their adult children toward a new autonomy. While the Victorian consciousness seems to have experienced a splitting--women were either good or bad, mothers were either good or bad--Hardy and James resist such splitting, instead exploring the gaps and flaws in the Angel-in-the-House ideology, in the process establishing the prototype for mother figures who little resemble Angels, in other words, fully human mothers, that both British and American Modernists such as D. H. Lawrence, William Faulkner, and Virginia Woolf would adapt as central figures in their major works.