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THE PROFESSIONAL IDENTITIES OF ELLEN WOOD (1814-1887)

Holland, C (2022) THE PROFESSIONAL IDENTITIES OF ELLEN WOOD (1814-1887). Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

This thesis is a study of the writing life of Ellen Wood (1816-1887), the popular Victorian writer best known for her 1861 bestseller, East Lynne. Through its focus on Wood’s publishing history, this thesis investigates how the professional identities and authorial strategies adopted by Wood throughout her long and successful career contributed to her success as a popular woman writer in a competitive periodical and literary marketplace. The study is organised chronologically and splits Wood’s literary career into seven parts. The first chapter considers Wood’s anonymous contributions to mid-century periodicals and considers how text-associated signature provided an opportunity to work within the constraints of the house style of a periodical while also building a literary identity. The second chapter accounts Wood’s transition from the lowly paid periodical contributor to the more lucrative form of the novel and outlines the early formation of the ‘Mrs. Henry Wood’ brand. The third and fourth chapters cover the period immediately following the astronomical success of East Lynne and identify two specific phases where there is a noticeable shift in Wood’s literary and publishing strategies which I have coined the ‘prolific’ and ‘strategic’ phases of her career. The fifth chapter concerns itself with her editorship of the Argosy magazine, which she also owned for a time, and the sixth chapter considers the significance of Wood’s masculine identities, particularly in contrast to the overt femininity of her famous ‘Mrs. Henry Wood’ brand. The final chapter considers Wood’s literary legacy and asks how much it contributed to her condemnation as the ‘conservative sensationalist’ which rendered her insignificant for many years of academic research until the resurgence of interest in popular fiction writers in the 1970s. Wood’s importance as a successful Victorian writer identifies her as a significant case study in Victorian literary history and her manipulation of authorial identity reveals much about the necessity of strategy in Victorian publishing. Overall, this thesis argues that Wood’s manipulation of authorial and professional identities to achieve success in a competitive literary marketplace allows her to expose the cultural boundaries imposed on writers, and particularly women writers, even if her conservative persona and popular status prevented her from truly challenging them. A study of Wood as a significant figure in nineteenth-century publishing history spans multiple aspects of Victorian research making her deserving of single-author study.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sensation Fiction; Ellen Wood; Authorship; Pseudonyms; Authorial Identity; Professional woman writer; Argosy; Editorship; Anonymity; Periodicals; Victorian Fiction; Popular Fiction; Popular Victorian Fiction; Literary Afterlife
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2021 12:01
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2021 12:01
DOI or Identification number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00015946
Supervisors: Muller, N, Norquay, G and Maidment, B
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15946

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