Edith Cooper’s Sin: Mapping the Willful Bodies of Michael Field

Edited book (chapter)


Bickle, Sharon. 2022. "Edith Cooper’s Sin: Mapping the Willful Bodies of Michael Field." Ayres, Brenda and Maier, Sarah E. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Victorian Scandals in Literature and Culture. United States. Routledge. pp. 425-437
Chapter Title

Edith Cooper’s Sin: Mapping the Willful Bodies of Michael Field

Book Chapter CategoryEdited book (chapter)
ERA Publisher ID3137
Book TitleRoutledge Handbook of Victorian Scandals in Literature and Culture
Authors
AuthorBickle, Sharon
EditorsAyres, Brenda and Maier, Sarah E.
Page Range425-437
SeriesRoutledge Literature Handbooks
Chapter Number21
Number of Pages13
Year2022
PublisherRoutledge
Place of PublicationUnited States
ISBN9781032259963
9781003286011
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003286011-25
Web Address (URL)https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9781003286011-25/edith-cooper-sin-sharon-bickle?context=ubx&refId=20c0f961-9ab8-4cf7-8a63-edf402d0015f
Abstract

Scandal has long been associated with the collaborative partnership of Michael Field (the pseudonym/collaborative identity of Katharine Harris Bradley and Edith Emma Cooper): In the 1880s, the English literary world was reportedly scandalized to discover the recently lionized young debut writer, Michael Field, was actually an aunt and niece from suburban Bristol. Rediscovered in the 1990s as lesbian lovers and writers, Bradley and Cooper re-emerged at the forefront of historiography on transgressive sexuality and the nature of female same-sex relationships, and current scholarship has extended this to argue this relationship embraced more complex and fluidly desiring bodies. If LGBTQ+ sexuality is no longer a site of scandal, nevertheless under the surface a modern discomfort with the spectre of aunt-niece incest remains. In some sense, “Michael Field” often represents the bellwether for scholarship on Victorian women writers. Using Sara Ahmed’s theory of wilfullness and digital humanities scholarship on The Diaries of Michael Field this chapter draws on Bickle’s transcription of the 1912 diary, written predominantly by Edith Cooper whilst dying of cancer. This volume, which begins with Cooper’s discussion of her sin in the context of her Catholic conversion and includes a tumultuous penultimate meeting with art historian Bernhard Berenson—central to several of Cooper’s love triangles—grants a unique vision into Cooper’s sense of her own sexuality, and how she viewed the morality of her most intimate relationships.

KeywordsVictorian studies, Victorian women writers, Michael Field, scandal, Sara Ahmed, wilfulness
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470504. British and Irish literature
430309. Gender history
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Humanities and Communication
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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