Philobiblon: Some more dead Christianity

Monday, October 25, 2004

Some more dead Christianity

I'm fascinated by the following paragraph:
"One of the great mythic transformations of the early nineteenth century was the feminisation of angels. Until the 1790s, British art and prose portrayed the angel as masculine or, at most, bisexual - characteristically muscular, strong and even displaying male genitalia, and a free divine spirit inhabiting the chasm of sky and space. But by the early Victorian period angels were virtuously feminine in form and increasingly shown in domestic confinement, no longer free to fly. Women had become divine, but an angel now confined to the house." (p. 58)

A trip to the Tate Britain to check this out is definitely in order.

But I have seen from personal experience, particularly in the case of my grandmother (born 1901), evidence for the following passage:
"Few women before the mid-twentieth century could even attempt to throw off these shackles of their moral identity. Those who did were ... overwhelmingly aristocratic, upper-middle-class, or bohemian and artistic. But for the 'ordinary' women to contemplate revolt against evangelical discourse was, as with 'Amoebe'{a correspondent to the Telegraph], to endanger being a woman. 'My whole motive in life seemed gone, and I felt that the moral which hung upon the motive must go too.' Clinging to or acquiring the status of being 'a Christian' was sine qua non for most women between 1800 and 1950." (p. 128.)

A focus on the start as well as the end date there might be important, as the (approximate) date when the position of women changed very fundamentally.

See here for earlier post and reference.

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