Online Conversazione ~ What should a woman do with her life?
Professor Dinah Birch is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Cultural Engagement and Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool. She chaired REF2014 Sub-panel 29 (English Literature and Language) and was Deputy Chair of Main Panel D (Arts and Humanities) and is Chair of Main Panel D in REF 2021. External roles include chairing the Editorial Board of The Conversation (an international online journal for the dissemination of research: http://theconversation.com/uk) and serving as President of the British Association for Victorian Studies.
Dinah has published widely on Victorian fiction and poetry, and on the work of the critic John Ruskin. Her books include Our Victorian Education (2007), and she is the general editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature (7th ed., 2009). She has published new editions of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (2011) and Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? (2012) and The Small House at Allington (2014) with Oxford University Press. Her interest in prose style is reflected in recent essays on George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and John Ruskin, and she has also published work on the Brontë family and 19c education. She served as a member of the Man Booker prize panel in 2012. She is a regular broadcaster and contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and London Review of Books.
What should a woman do with her life?
Trollope’s thinking about women shifted over the course of his career, as he encountered views that challenged conventional models of gendered identity, and grew more sympathetic to women’s struggles with constraints that limited their options. And yet he never abandoned the traditional idea that a woman’s happiest destiny was that of wife and mother. His representations of these tensions are intimately bound up with the views on money and work that are central to his fiction, and they reflect the ambiguities that underlie his complex identity as an ‘advanced conservative Liberal’. His conflicted thought still has much to offer contemporary debates on women’s life choices.
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