Victoria's accession to the throne in 1837 coincided with the birth of a now notorious gender stereotype--the "Angel in the House." Comparing the position of real women--from the Queen of England to middle-class housewives--with their status as household angels, Elizabeth Langland explores a complex image of femininity in Victorian culture.Langland offers provocative readiVictoria's accession to the throne in 1837 coincided with the birth of a now notorious gender stereotype--the "Angel in the House." Comparing the position of real women--from the Queen of England to middle-class housewives--with their status as household angels, Elizabeth Langland explores a complex image of femininity in Victorian culture.Langland offers provocative readings of nineteenth-century fiction as well as a rare glimpse into etiquette guides, home management manuals, and cookbooks. She traces the implications of a profound contradiction: although the home was popularly depicted as a private moral haven, running the middle-class household--which included at least one servant--was in fact an exercise in class management. Drawing on the work of Foucault, Benjamin, and Bourdieu, and of recent feminist theorists, Langland considers novels by Dickens, Gaskell, Oliphant. and Eliot, as well as the memoirs of Hannah Cullwick, a former domestic servant who married a middle-class man.Langland discovers that the middle-class wife assumed a more complex and important function than has previously been recognized. With her substantial power veiled in myth, the Victorian angel mastered skills that enabled her to support a rigid class system; at the same time, however, her achievements unobtrusively set the stage for a feminist revolution. Nobody's Angels reconstructs a disturbing picture of social change that depended as much on protecting class inequity as on promoting gender equality....
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Nobody's Angels Reviews
Points for research:"The Victorian home became a physical theater for staging one's social status, and architecture in the nineteenth century changed in response. Elaborate sign systems such as etiquette, dress, and architecture reveal how Victorians bifurcated male and female;" (Langland 41)."the feminine icon of the Angel in the House is also a middle class ideal built explicitly on a class system of difference where political and economic differences were rewritten as differences of nature" (Langland 41)"The segregation of the kitchen from the rest of the household underscores gender and class distinctions evident everywhere in the architecture" (Langland 43)"M.L. Thompson makes a similar observation that the layout of houses 'encouraged their occupants to conform to a stereotype of respectability'" (qtd. in Langland 43)."Spaces were encoded as masculine or feminine" (Langland 43) - see drawing room vs dining room; also: smoking & billiard rooms and bachelor's quarters vs drawing rooms, sitting rooms, boudoirs- separation of quarters by both gender and class; increased value in privacy; servant's quarters mirror owner's quarters in terms of layout and separation"Back staircases, hidden doorways, and secluded passageways enabled servants to escape detection as they performed their duties" (Langland 43-440. "The bourgeois wife decided upon the household help required, drew up job descriptions, advertised, interviewed, hired, supervised, paid, and fired" (Langland 46). - interaction with servant classes and regulation of behavior - philanthropy as angelic mission; acts of charity, looking after tenants etc.- instruction of children; hiring instructors for education (comparison between children and servants)Langland, Elizabeth. Nobody's Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995. Print