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Gendered EcologiesNew Materialist Interpretations of Women Writers in the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Dewey W. Hall and Jillmarie Murphy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781949979046

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781949979046.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

Beyond the Bower

Beyond the Bower

The Garden, the Tower, and the Fate of the Embowered Woman

Chapter:
(p.41) Chapter 2 Beyond the Bower
Source:
Gendered Ecologies
Author(s):

Heather Braun

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781949979046.003.0003

Romantic male poets typically describe bowers as lush, ecological spaces for quiet introspection and poetic creation within a distinctly masculinize landscape. In contrast to these idyllic spaces in Nature, the word bower meant something quite different for many nineteenth-century British women writers. For Romantic female poets, these garden bowers were isolated and fragmented spaces where artistic production was inhibited rather than nurtured. Their poems imagine a very different kind of bower, one that is aligned most directly with a second definition of the term: namely, a lady’s apartment in which “embowered” characters are trapped in interior spaces. These barren, claustrophobic bowers offered the antithesis of the freedom and inspiration male poets of the Romantic-era associated with outdoor garden bowers. Poet, essayist, and activist Caroline Norton demonstrates how these artificial domestic prisons produced paralysis and self-division rather than comfort and poetic inspiration. Cut off from the ecological spaces available to their male contemporaries, Norton’s female characters are silenced, distracted, and confined unable to leave their stifling bowers to create space for themselves in the natural world. Many nineteenth-century women writers reconfigured the Romantic garden bower as an unnatural lady’s bower from which female artists must flee in order to create.

Keywords:   Bower, Garden, Caroline Norton, Poetry, Tower

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