University Of Tasmania
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Of marriageable age : rethinking approaches to father-daughter incest narratives in the long eighteenth century

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posted on 2023-05-26, 21:33 authored by Delaney, EA
This thesis examines father-daughter incest in three literary works of the long eighteenth century within a frame of the marriage exchange gone wrong. The representation of father-daughter incest in this period, unlike contemporary incest stories that feature girl-children, focuses on the daughter of marriageable age, a prominent figure in eighteenth-century literature. The incest is often precipitated at the moment that the father should be planning a marriage alliance for his daughter but instead begins to see her as a sexual being. The three texts examined in the thesis are Jane Barker's Exilius, or The Banish 'd Roman (published in 1714), Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Cenci and Mary Shelley's Mathilda, both written in 1819. The chapters are structured around the three main characters within the incest plot ‚ÄövÑvÆ the daughter, the suitor(s), and the father. In these texts, the daughter is past the age of consent, is a desiring subject herself and knows she is the incestuous object of her biological father. The texts, in which father-daughter incest is structurally and thematically central, belong to the wider literary and social debates about marriage and the daughter of marriageable age, which dominate the century. This thesis focuses on the female characters/daughters of marriageable age as they struggle to bring their incest experiences into language, and as they live out the consequences of that experience. The domestic space is a potentially dangerous one for daughters. Each of these narratives of father-daughter incest also has political implications. A close reading of the male figures ‚ÄövÑvÆ the suitor(s) and the fathers ‚ÄövÑvÆ brings to light a Jacobite reading in Exilius, a critique of the worst kind of patriarchal society in The Cenci and a criticism of a society that allows excesses and self indulgence in Mathilda.


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Copyright 2005 the author Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2007. Includes bibliographical references. Preface. What's in a kiss? -- Introduction. The daughter, marriage and incest -- Ch. 1. The daughter -- Ch. 2. The suitor(s) -- Ch. 3. The father -- Conclusion

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