Wilwerding, Lauren Elizabeth. “Singular Plots”, Boston College, 2017. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:107707.
“Singular Plots” challenges the commonplace that the marriage plot defines the nineteenth-century British novel by uncovering the plot of vocational singleness. In this plot, a heroine renounces marriage and seeks another occupation – caring for parents or siblings; participating in philanthropy, business, or art. “Singular Plots” traces the history of representations of single women, arguing that unmarried women were often represented as plotless in the early century, while around mid-century the vocational plot coalesced in novels including Brontë’s Villette, Trollope’s The Small House at Allington, and Charlotte Yonge’s The Daisy Chain. In order to uncover vocational plots that exist alongside and against marriage plots, I advocate a method of reading called “analeptic reading” in which readers pivot from the final pages back to the more radical center and outward past the end – a process that expands our notion of which moments in a plot can be definitive. The project joins recent work by scholars including Sharon Marcus and Talia Schaffer to challenge and expand our understanding of the role of the marriage plot in nineteenth-century literature. “Singular Plots” uncovers single women as a group with uniquely and instructively particular relationships to gender, marriage, work, and the form of the novel itself.