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Author Biography

Ula Klein recently received her PhD in English from Stony Brook University on Long Island. Her dissertation is entitled, "Gender in Its Parts: Female Cross-dressers, Prosthetic Gender, and Sapphic Possibility."

Abstract

This article examines Maria Edgeworth’s 1801 novel Belinda in order to argue that the breast at the center of Lady Delacour’s narrative signifies not maternal failure but Sapphic feelings and connections. While previous studies of the novel have discussed the wounded breast of Lady Delacour as a punishment for her transgressions or as an emblem of her patriarchal oppression, this article claims that the wounded breast is both a sign of and a means to female same-sex desire and relationships. This article contrasts the wounded, festering breast with the tableau that ends the novel. The tableau, a constructed vision of social expectations at the time, is undermined by Lady Delacour’s final couplet that encourages the reader to “find the moral” of the story. The wounded breast and the many ways in which it connects the characters of Lady Delacour, Belinda and Mrs. Freke undermine the heteronormative tableau that ends the novel and complicate the suggestion that the moral of the story is easy to understand. By exploring the ways in which the breast functions to connect these women through its wounding and its cure, I argue that Sapphic possibilities arise throughout the novel. These possibilities suggest the centrality of the female same-sex relationships to the novel over the heterosexual ones that figure in the tableau.

Keywords

Belinda, Maria Edgeworth, eighteenth-century novels, Sapphic, lesbian, breasts