Macquarie University
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"A storm in her mind": representations of female melacholy in Ruth and The mill on the floss

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posted on 2022-03-28, 18:29 authored by Monica Sharpe
There is a long history of criticism concerning certain trends in the characterisation of female characters within Victorian novels. This thesis aims to explore a trend that has been largely ignored within literary criticism, the melancholic woman. This thesis will explore the representation of female melacholy in two Victorian realist novels, Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth and George Eliot's The mill on the Floss. It aims to demonstrate the ways in which representations of female melancholy functioned politically in these novels, in either reflecting or undermining Victorian gender ideologies. In approaching this question the intersections between Victorian medical and social understandings of female melancholy and the literary representations of melancholy will be examined. Through this exploration it will be argued that these novels were a space in which the assumptions underpinning the Victorian psychological discourse, and wider normative ideologies of womanhood could be challenged and complicated.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. "Surely life was a horrible dream" : Ruth and the onset of melancholy -- 3. "I wish I could make a world outside of it, as men do" : The mill on the floss and the onset of melancholy -- 4. "Her whole heart was in her boy" : a cure in motherhood and the domestic space -- 5. "I've been a great deal happier since I have given up" : a cure in religious self-renunciation -- 6. Afterword : "Why must she die?" -- 7. Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 79-85

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Lee Christine O'Brien

Additional Supervisor 1

Stephanie Russo


Copyright Monica Sharpe 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




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