"Forms and ceremonies to be gone through" : performance and self-knowledge in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, North and south, and Wives and daughters.
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This thesis looks at blatant and subversive performances in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, North and South, and Wives and Daughters. Referencing studies of nineteenth-century performance theory, I will argue that Gaskell, aware of her contemporaries' obsession with theatricality, created works that are ultimately concerned with authentic performances of societal roles. These roles, Gaskell paradoxically argues, have the dualistic potential of either initiating self-knowledge or trapping the individual in a self-annihilating existence. Seeking to navigate this duality, Gaskell acknowledges the integral part the community plays in a self's development but ultimately privileges individual integrity in accomplishing positive societal change.