Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies, Vol 17, No 1 (2012)

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Reassessing Gilbert and Gubar: Women, Creativity, Hopkins

Duc Dau


Since the publication of The Madwoman in the Attic, several Hopkins critics have speculated that the poet’s wish for ‘masterly execution’ appears to betray his own fear of becoming unmanly or effeminate in his art and life. My intention is not to contest Gilbert’s and Gubar’s claims of chauvinism. I agree that Hopkins clearly exhibited sexist attitudes. Nor do I dispute that Hopkins’ view of creation is often gendered. However, I contend that what passes unrecognised by Gilbert and Gubar is that Hopkins held not simply one but several theories of artistic creation.

I will demonstrate that the Virgin Mary, the female authority of the Roman Catholic Church, provided Hopkins with a model to depict, with greater frequency, positive female figures. By eschewing generalisations, we can see that the Catholic Hopkins was unlike Protestant male authors in his identification with the Virgin Mary and her pregnancy. In this regard he was not ‘a representative male citizen’. Indeed, Hopkins’ images of female procreators and creators, particularly the Virgin Mary, eventually led him to occupy a feminised – and more feminist – position in his final poem, ‘To R. B.’.

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