Hysterical Citizenship in Grand's

Zarena Aslami

in The Dream Life of Citizens

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780823241996
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823242030 | DOI:
Hysterical Citizenship in Grand's

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Sarah Grand's landmark New Woman novel The Heavenly Twins attacked the social and political structures that endangered middle-class women's physical health toward the end of the nineteenth century. This chapter shows how the novel's explicit desire to be political accounts for the many contradictions that it has generated for contemporary and recent readers. These contradictions bring to the surface the complexity of late Victorian liberalism: the very claim for freedom can constrain the liberal subject. The more the liberal subject fights to be “free,” the more she upholds the structures that subordinate her. Grand figures the relationship between the injured citizen and the healing state as a sexual one between a failed feminist, Evadne, and a physician who is also a baronet, Dr. Galbraith. Galbraith represents the ideal state in Grand's text. A professional expert who is also landed, he combines two kinds of disinterest and virtue. But Grand also expresses reservations about the kind of power such a state might wield. Ultimately, political hopelessness and sexual pleasure, elsewhere excised by the bourgeois moral economy of the novel, converge at the end of The Heavenly Twins in the spectacle of the heroine's hysterical submission to and withholding from the hero.

Keywords: Sarah Grand; The Heavenly Twins; New Woman novel; Hysteria; Liberalism; Gender and Sexuality; Feminism; State power; Political fantasy; Freedom

Chapter.  12199 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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