A hole in the whole of the familial narrative: Dickens' and Freud's intrusive servants.
Committee ChairZwinger, Lynda
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractUsing the tools of feminist literary criticism, this dissertation examines the female domestic servant in the writings of Charles Dickens and Sigmund Freud. I have read the female retainer in the Dickensian canon as one of the domestic ideal's most useful signifiers. Although Dickens certainly writes from the assumptions of his own time and posits over-determined gender assignments, his texts, as do those of Sigmund Freud, frequently erupt with what Julia Kristeva has dubbed the messy semiotic (Kristeva 1986, 99). Both Freud and Dickens speak through intriguing circumlocutions, in which the very ideologies seemingly sustained are subverted. The female servant in the works of both Freud and Dickens often signs repressed desire. She is the liminal figure between lower class earthiness and bourgeois decorum. She may assume positions between the maternal and the paternal. She may function as as either chastising adult or naughty child. She is an outsider in the familial cell, yet she is part of the most private and intimate spaces. For the twentieth century reader, who oscillates in code switching and social placement, the female servant of the Victorian novel is a relevant and stimulating hermeneutic configuration.