Ophelia and Victorian Visual Culture: Representing Body Politics in the Nineteenth Century

1st Edition

Kimberly Rhodes

Published May 21, 2008
Reference - 224 Pages
ISBN 9780754658764 - CAT# Y235881

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Kimberly Rhodes's interdisciplinary book is the first to explore fully the complicated representational history of Shakespeare's Ophelia during the Victorian period. In nineteenth-century Britain, the shape, function and representation of women's bodies were typically regulated and interpreted by public and private institutions, while emblematic fictional female figures like Ophelia functioned as idealized templates of Victorian womanhood. Rhodes examines the widely disseminated representations of Ophelia, from works by visual artists and writers, to interpretations of her character in contemporary productions of Hamlet, revealing her as a nexus of the struggle for the female body's subjugation. By considering a broad range of materials, including works by Anna Lea Merritt, Elizabeth Siddal, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Everett Millais, and paying special attention to images women produced, Rhodes illuminates Ophelia as a figure whose importance crossed class and national boundaries. Her analysis yields fascinating insights into 'high' and mass culture and enables transnational comparisons that reveal the compelling associations among Ophelia, gender roles, body image and national identity.

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