The Governess in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism: Fictional Governesses - Essay

E. Duncan Aswell (essay date 1968)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Reflections of a Governess: Image and Distortion in The Turn of the Screw,” in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 23, No. 1, June, 1968, pp. 49-63.

[In the following essay, Aswell argues that The Turn of the Screw is a non-supernatural tale revolving around the narrator's inability to confront and acknowledge her dark side.]

The governess in The Turn of the Screw judges her experiences in simplistic moral terms: Miles and Flora are threatened by diabolical fiends and can only be saved by her angelic intervention. In truth, however, the governess not only creates the activities of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel out of her imagination; it is...

(The entire section is 6263 words.)

Elliot M. Schrero (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Exposure in The Turn of the Screw,” in Modern Philology, Vol. 78, No. 3, February, 1981, pp. 261-74.

[In the following essay, Schrero contends that The Turn of the Screw should be analyzed in terms of various cultural beliefs and traditions common to the Victorian era—particularly the interactions between children, parents, servants, and governesses.]

Few critics since 1925 have responded to The Turn of the Screw as its first reviewers did in 1898. Edna Kenton's 1925 essay, which was to be amplified by Edmund Wilson's three versions of “The Ambiguity of Henry James,” foreshadowed a series of ironic readings that have swelled into...

(The entire section is 7911 words.)

Alice Hall Petry (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Jamesian Parody, Jane Eyre, and The Turn of the Screw,” in Modern Language Studies, Vol. 13, No. 4, Fall, 1983, pp. 61-78.

[In the following essay, Petry claims that with The Turn of the Screw James wrote a parody of the popular novel Jane Eyre, portraying his own narrator (the unnamed governess) as an almost exact parody of Brontë's famous female protagonist.]

Ever since it was first published in 1898, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw has received a phenomenal amount of critical attention and popular acclaim; and no small portion of this perennial interest is due to the fact that there are basically two ways in which...

(The entire section is 9482 words.)

Kathryn Hughes (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Reader, I Married Him,” in The Victorian Governess, The Hambledon Press, 1993, pp. 1-9.

[In the following excerpt, Hughes provides an overview of nineteenth-century fiction featuring the character of the governess, beginning with Jane Austen's 1816 novel Emma, and ending with James' 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw.]

Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the parson and clerk, were alone present.

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)

It is a curious proof of the present feeling towards governesses, that they are made the heroines of...

(The entire section is 3968 words.)

Millicent Bell (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Jane Eyre: The Tale of the Governess,” in American Scholar, Vol. 65, No. 2, Spring, 1996, pp. 263-69.

[In the following essay, Bell focuses on what she describes as Jane's intense desire for independence, which the critic argues is the heroine's prime “social fault.”]

Although Jane Eyre is a love story that ends in marriage, everything Jane says about herself is calculated to show that she is not the romantic heroine for whom the marriage ending is a foregone conclusion. To begin with, she is plain; her lack of the requisite beauty of such a heroine is stressed continually. She is puny, her features irregular—and her unpromising...

(The entire section is 4715 words.)

Teresa Mangum (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sheridan Le Fanu's Ungovernable Governesses,” in Studies in the Novel, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer, 1997, pp. 214-37.

[In the following essay, Mangum explores how the grotesque, abusive, powerful, and gender-ambivalent governesses in Le Fanu's short stories and novels challenge traditional patriarchal authority and threaten domestic order.]

The stereotypical down-trodden, ill-used Victorian governess abandons her abject demeanor and launches into the domestic fray over social and cultural authority in the work of Anglo-Irish short story writer, novelist, journalist, and editor, Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873). Duplicitous, grotesque, alcoholic, foreign, and...

(The entire section is 11258 words.)