In Part One: The Facts of Life, three chapters establish a foundation for the contexts necessary for proper literary investigation. Chapter One: Historic Perceptions and Misperceptions of the Female Adolescent Body, discusses the historic significance of adolescence. In Chapter Two: Societal Expectations, Idealization, and Advice from Conduct Books, I assess cultural conditioning of the physical coming-of-age experience. And in Chapter Three: Nineteenth-Century Females’ Coming-of-Age Practices, I report on day-to-day life.
In Part Two: The Buried Life of the Facts of Life, I apply this framework to a variety of nineteenth-century literature written for and about female coming-of-age figures to reveal the buried physicality of these characters. Chapter Four: Breeding Virtuous Young Women in Mary Martha Sherwood’s Revision of The Governess (1820), analyzes Sherwood’s editorial changes to Sarah Fielding’s pioneering children’s story. In Chapter Five: The Weight of Womanhood in George MacDonald’s The Light Princess (1864), I argue the author imbues his fairy tale with allusions to female sexual development. Chapter Six: Differentiating Female Adolescent Bodies in Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), addresses the metaphoric representation of the Thames and the evolutionary representation of Jenny Wren. Last, in Chapter Seven: Signaling Adolescent Transition in L.T. Meade’s A World of Girls (1886) and Red Rose and Tiger Lily (1894), I argue that these school stories include signifiers of female sexual physical development.
I am now at work turning the manuscript into a monograph for publication. I would like to sincerely thank my adviser, Dr. Laura M. White, my committee members, Dr. Stephen C. Behrendt, Dr. Peter J. Capuano, and Dr. Carole Levin for their mentoring, encouragement, and support.