ENGLISH 2K06 Lecture Notes - Caroline Norton, Criminal Conversation, Foot Binding
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- Makes a call for autonomy and freedom; her main argument is contented on one tenant -
truth must be common to all for freedom. A freedom to and a freedom from – arbitrary
constraints placed upon the citizens based on gender are pointed out, leaving women
uninformed and subjugated.
o Freedom to make choices and to evaluate social morals, morality and social
placements. Getting beyond mere decorum; trying to engage the matters of justice
that repeatedly concern society.
o Talks about psychosomatic deformation of mind and body: the accoutrements of
middle class femininity were restraining and uncomfortable, hindering movement
and damaging the body – the body became misshapen by artifice, Wollstonecraft
takes this into the psychosomatic, linking that the mind was also becoming
misshapen by artifice.
References the Orientalist mentality that is present in Britain – foot binding
as compared to the corset, misshaping the body and with similar reasoning
and ideals backing it.
Caroline Norton: the granddaughter of Richard Sheraton, famous playwright, Member of
- As Wollstonecraft points out, the middle class daughter is encourages only to rise through
marriage, with discouragement of independent activity, Caroline lives this criticism. Not
being a conventional woman, with a honed critical opinion and voice, and a gift for sarcasm
gave her no proposals other than George Norton.
o Their marriage brought out that the woman’s self was almost always tied to the
private sphere. Caroline, being a more educated liberal oriented woman, quickly
superseded, in intellect, her husband’s conservative mentality.
o He became rapidly physically and verbally abusive. His intellectual and social
inferiority set up a deeply abusive relationship, because Norton could not match or
dominate her in argument or conversation, he resorted to physical abuse. Beating
her body was a way of keeping her tied to her physical frailty, which leaves her
powerless – the beaten and battered body represents the mind.
She explodes the notion of the middle class home as sanctuary.
Mostly a class based discussion which Caroline Norton relocates to the
upper middle class.
o George stole her children away to Scotland, closed their home to her, and instigated
a civil law suit against Lord Melbourne, then Prime Minister, for criminal
conversation (a sexual misdemeanor by which a wife’s alleged lover could be sued
in court for deteriorating the husband’s property).
Battle about corporeality: the suit made the woman in question visible
insofar as a sexual object to the men involved. She cannot give evidence of
her own or represent herself.
Would the government be brought down by the sexual body of a woman?
Melbourne went on to become the personal and trusted advisor to the
Queen and Caroline became largely defined by scandal – made her political
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