An Illustrious Past: Victorian Prosopography and Irish Women Writers

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Title: An Illustrious Past: Victorian Prosopography and Irish Women Writers
Authors: Kelleher, Margaret
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Date: 25-Jan-2010
Online since: 2021-10-20T15:48:32Z
Abstract: In her 2004 work, How to Make It as a Woman: Collective Biographical History from Victoria to the Present, Alison Booth has illustrated the popularity, during the Victorian period, of collected life narratives of women writers: ‘It is an old girl network that long precedes second-wave feminist commitments, and that exposes the limitations of the obligatory memorialization and recovery of “our” role models.’ The term ‘prosopography’ means literally the ‘writing of masks’, and has emerged as an accepted term for collective biography or multibiography: Lawrence Stone, writing in 1971, offers a useful definition of prosopography as ‘the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives’. Booth’s work uncovers 930 examples of all-female collections published in English between 1830 and 1940 (not including biographical collections of male and female subjects) and suggests that ‘in form and function, the hundreds of collections of female biographies might be the lost ancestors of late twentieth-century women’s studies’. Popular examples include works by Anna Jameson whose Characteristics of Women, Moral, Poetical and Historical (later published as Shakespeare’s Heroines) first published in 1832, had numerous reprintings and editions in Britain and the United States throughout the nineteenth century.
Type of material: Book Chapter
Publisher: UCD Press
Start page: 88
End page: 101
Keywords: Victorian prosopographyIrish women's prosopography
Subject LCSH: Blackburne, E. Owens, 1848-
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Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Is part of: Dooley, T., Boyce, G., Coolahan, J. (eds.). Ireland's Polemical Past: Essays in Honour of Vincent Comerford
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License:
Appears in Collections:English, Drama & Film Research Collection

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