“The Popular Invention of the Victorian Governess, 1815-2015”
Christiana Salah is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department at the University of Connecticut. A specialist in both Victorian fiction and children’s literature, she has published articles in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Children’s Literature, The Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies, and the centennial critical collection on Anne of Green Gables. While her interests (which also include film, genre, and adaptation theory) refuse to be narrowed down, Christiana’s inquiries tend to concern how culture represents intersections of gender and class, particularly as influenced by the Victorian literary imaginary.
During her time at the Humanities Institute, she will complete her dissertation, “The Popular Invention of the Victorian Governess, 1815-2015.” Beginning with Jane Austen’s condemnation in Emma of the “sale – not quite of human flesh – but of human intellect,” and ending with the monster-minding governesses of contemporary children’s fiction, this project traces a consistently popular character type across two hundred years of literary reproduction. Combining textual analysis and cultural history, this study seeks to show how uses of the governess figure reveal complex negotiations of class mobility and female agency that challenge typical understandings of Victorian culture and of the degree to which it influences our own.