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Hemans and Home: Victorianism, Feminine "Internal Enemies," and the Domestication of National Identity

Tricia Lootens
PMLA
Vol. 109, No. 2 (Mar., 1994), pp. 238-253
DOI: 10.2307/463119
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/463119
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Hemans and Home: Victorianism, Feminine "Internal Enemies," and the Domestication of National Identity
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Abstract

In Felicia Hemans's reception, if nowhere else, Victorian culture, and particularly Victorian patriotism, may still seem stable, enviably simple, and almost threateningly immediate. Hemans was no Victorian, however, and as her notorious "Casabianca" suggests, even the Victorians' favorites among her verses could be deeply disturbing. Through a wide, complex, and self-contradictory range of patriotic poetry, Hemans consistently sought both to reconcile militarism with "the domestic affections" and to mediate between Enlightenment and Romantic conceptions of patriotism. Relying on the symbolic power of soldiers' graves and using a Hegelian dialectic in which mournful femininity is the constitutive "internal enemy" of the state, her verses attained powerful resonance within Victorian attempts to domesticate imperialism. Nonetheless, her visions of feminine patriotism remain revealingly self-divided, often presenting relations between familial and state power as both unstable and potentially terrifying.

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