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We’ll be finishing up A Little Princess this week, and our specific attention to how little girls were particularly imagined in the nineteenth century as the notion of childhood solidified. You’ll have seen that in many ways, Sara Crewe is a character who thoroughly embodies certain traditional ideas of what young girls should be like–well-spoken, educated in subjects such as French, polite and respectful. But she also displays traits that are bolder, challenging nineteenth-century ideas about how little girls should be seen and not heard; she has a quick temper, she speaks up to defend others, she reads many books, she has her own opinions and ideas. You might say that Sara Crewe is an example of a character who is on the cusp of modernity and of changing ideas about gender roles, displaying traits that are both stereotypically feminine and masculine, questioning the rigidity of these categories.
Below are three nineteenth-century pieces of art depicting little girls:
“The Music Lesson”.jpg by Frederic Leighton;
“Sympathy”.jpg by Briton Riviere;
“My Second Sermon”.jpg by John Everett Millais
For this week’s post, I’d like you to analyze one of these paintings, and explain how you think your chosen painting both portrays stereotypical ideas of young girlhood, and also challenges them. In other words, what aspects of the painting imply that the girl portrayed is a proper, demure, perfectly behaved, obedient young girl? What aspects of the painting suggest defiance, or nonconformity, or wildness as opposed to compliance? Pay attention to posture, color, lines, facial expressions, framing, shading, emphasis, anything that signals to you something about how we are asked to interpret girlhood in this dual manner. If you like, you can connect your visual analysis back to Sara Crewe, reflecting on the complexity of her character along these lines. Because this post asks for a visual rather than textual analysis, no quote is required. But you should provide evidence from the painting you choose in your description and interpretation. Have fun, and be creative in your interpretations! FOR THIS POST I WOULD LIKE FOR YOU TO USE THIS PORTRAIT
“Sympathy”.jpg by Briton Riviere;


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