Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Paul Schmidt

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Galchinsky

Third Advisor

Dr. LeeAnne Richardson

Abstract

Plant imagery abounds in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's novel-poem, Aurora Leigh, and critical readings have not thoroughly explored the meaning of and intent behind that imagery. Plant metaphor and images in Aurora Leigh are used to challenge the concept of Victorian women's inherently inferior "nature" and to present an argument for female equality. When traced throughout the work, plant imagery foreshadows Aurora and Marian's ultimate personal independence and familial harmony and helps the reader to understand the poem's controversial ending. Ties to three of Browning's literary influences in the selection of plant images are explored: Emanuel Swedenborg, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Each of these three understood and used nature imagery to significant effect in their own writings, and Browning adopted and developed those images in her work.

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