Incorporeal and Inspected: Aristocratic Female Bodies and the Gaze in the Works of Mrs Henry Wood

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This article posits that sensation novelist Mrs Henry Wood, despite her complex representations of gender and class, articulated a proto-feminist stance through many of her works through the trope of the disembodied aristocratic female. Wood represents the impossible, contradictory spaces that women in general are supposed to occupy by using the high visibility of aristocratic female characters as a magnifying glass for gender norms. Wood sees aristocratic women as doubly trapped by patriarchal structures as these women attempt the paradoxical “public vs. private” and “viewed vs. intangible” demands placed on them by their gender and class statuses. By representing all women, but especially upper-class women, as constantly seen but lacking corporeal forms (especially in comparison to the highly embodied male characters in her texts), Wood stresses the tension between conflicting ideologies of conventional femininity in the Victorian period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-106
Number of pages17
JournalWomen's Writing
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered,
transformed, or built upon in any way


  • class
  • gender
  • Mrs Henry Wood
  • Sensation fiction
  • the gaze
  • Victorian literature


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