The Essence of English Identity: Gender's Role in the Stability of the Nation in English Literature, from the Anglo-Saxons to the Victorians
Date of Graduation
Master of Arts in English
This thesis, using Jungian analysis, investigates how the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, William Shakespeare's Macbeth, and Charles Dickens's David Copperfield reflect the interdependent spheres of gender relationships that affected societal perceptions of English national identity and stability for over a thousand years. Historian Geoffrey Hindley writes, "the historical reality of an English identity grew out of the traditions of loyalty and lordship from the epic heritage of a pagan past embodied in the poem of Beowulf in a common vernacular tongue.” In the three periods examined here, men and women had responsibilities in marriage that were defined by the societal ideals for their gender. The analyzed texts and historical contexts show how these images of interdependent relationships as a necessary part of a whole community, a unified state, became a facet of the cultural conscious. This study reveals how these Anglo-Saxon perceptions of gender ideals are important for understanding more recent English literature and history since they had long-term effects on the society, influencing in the English renaissance, and even the Victorian era and their perception of the public and private spheres.
Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Saxonism, Beowulf, David Copperfield, English national identity, gender roles, Jungian analysis of literature, Macbeth
English Language and Literature
© Natalie Marie Whitaker
Whitaker, Natalie Marie, "The Essence of English Identity: Gender's Role in the Stability of the Nation in English Literature, from the Anglo-Saxons to the Victorians" (2015). MSU Graduate Theses. 1149.