Disability and gender in the visual field: seeing the subterranean lives of Michael Field's William Rufus (1885)

Article


Bickle, Sharon. 2012. "Disability and gender in the visual field: seeing the subterranean lives of Michael Field's William Rufus (1885)." Victorian Literature and Culture. 40 (1), pp. 137-152. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1060150311000283
Article Title

Disability and gender in the visual field: seeing the subterranean lives of Michael Field's William Rufus (1885)

ERA Journal ID11519
Article CategoryArticle
Authors
AuthorBickle, Sharon
Journal TitleVictorian Literature and Culture
Journal Citation40 (1), pp. 137-152
Number of Pages16
Year2012
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN1060-1503
1470-1553
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1017/S1060150311000283
Web Address (URL)https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/victorian-literature-and-culture/article/disability-and-gender-in-the-visual-field-seeing-the-subterranean-lives-of-michael-fields-william-rufus/6F44001D5876A4A4A6F73CEAA88CB5EB
Abstract

When the UK's Guardian newspaper featured 'La Gioconda' as poem of the week in January 2010, the paper's popular readership discovered what many late-Victorian scholars had known about for some time: the poetic partnership of Katharine Bradley (1846–1914) and Edith Cooper (1862–1913), known as 'Michael Field.' The successful recovery of the Fields as significant late-Victorian writers – a project now in its second decade – seems poised to emerge into popular awareness driven as much by interest in their unconventional love affair as by the poetry itself. Scholars too have been seduced by the romance of a transgressive love story, and the critical nexus between sexuality and textuality has produced remarkable scholarship on the Fields' lyric poetry: those texts in which the personas have a rough equivalence with Bradley and Cooper themselves. Yopie Prins first noted the complex engagement of multiple voices with lyric structure in Long Ago (74–111), and Ana Parejo Vadillo (Women Poets 175–95), Jill Ehnenn (73–96), and Hilary Fraser (553–56) expanded on this to uncover the transformation of the lyric's male gaze into a triangulated lesbian vision in Sight and Song (1892). In contrast to the recognition accorded their lyric verse, most critics have overlooked Michael Field's verse dramas. While there have been attempts to shift attention onto the plays, the significance of the Fields' lesbian vision to the dramas has never been explored. This article seeks to redress this pervasive neglect and begin dismantling the boundaries that have grown up between critical approaches to the lyrics and the plays.

KeywordsMichael Field; women's writing; verse drama; nineteenth century British poetry; gender; disability
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470504. British and Irish literature
470530. Stylistics and textual analysis
470514. Literary theory
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Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Queensland
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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