Tuesday, January 17, 2012


It is clear from the date of my previous entry that I have abandoned posting for several months! The only excuse I can provide is being preoccupied with a heavy coarse load during my final year of college. Last semester was more work-intensive than semesters past, but naturally, I enjoyed laboring over my papers and projects in spite of its demands (what can I say? I love to study!)

I am back at school a bit earlier than most undergraduates; Messiah has an optional J-Term in which intensive, four-week courses are offered to students who wish to lighten their course load for the spring semester. I have participated in J-Term for 2 out of my 4 years (last winter, I studied abroad), and this year, I have returned, not to take a particular course, but to work on my English Honors Project. It is a research project, essentially, that involves investigating a certain topic in literature and presenting my findings in a 40-50 page thesis. I think I am also expected to give an oral presentation but I haven't yet discussed this with my project adviser.

The topic I have chosen for my research is 19th-century British Women's fashion in the novels of George Eliot, exploring these titles in particular: Daniel Deronda, The Mill on the Floss, and Middlemarch. I am so thrilled to be able to incorporate two of my greatest passions: literature and the visual arts! The overlap of these two fields is astonishing, particularly in the context of the Victorian Era. Women's fashion was affected by changing conceptions of beauty throughout the century that were manifested in both novels and art, particularly the works of Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic painters. It was the Pre-Raphaelites who emphasized a return to natural, rather than artifical beauty which clothing styles frequently reflected. Many wives of the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic painters were inspired to reject the rigid, shape-defining styles of the time, and began to popularize more loosely-flowing, shapeLESS gowns. You can imagine this had an impact on the perception of women in society and their socially-defined roles! In the meantime, much of these changes are reflected in the clothing styles of Eliot's characters. It's downright fascinating, especially since Eliot was in such close proximity to the Pre-Raphaelites (she was actually friends with Edward Burne-Jones and his wife!).

I could go on to discuss the topic even further. In fact, I could discuss it all day. But rather than bore you, I will leave you with a some imagery to display precisely what I am writing about. I will be happy to share the final product of my paper when it is finished.

Helen of Troy by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Ophelia by John Everett Millais

P.S. VOGUE magazine's December issue has a surprisingly informative article on Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic art and fashion. It has been an excellent resource for my paper. You may want to read it for a clearer understanding of these art movements and the ideologies behind them. I will try to find a link and post it soon!


PhillyPowells said...

Isn't Ophelia the poem that Anne of Green Gables tries to reenact when her boat fills with water and Gilbert has to rescue her?

Jenna said...

Actually it was The Lady of Shallot - a figure who appears in many other PRB paintings