Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Talia Schaffer

Committee Members

Rachel Brownstein

Richard Kaye

Caroline Reitz

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles | Women's Studies


Victorian Studies, Romanticism, Narrative Studies, Genre Theory, History of Marriage, Theory of the Novel


This dissertation examines the narrative treatment of matchmakers in British marriage plots across the nineteenth century. In an era of increasing state control over marriage and the rising ideology of romantic marriage, the matchmaker represents the communal courtship practices of the past. As such, she offers both a threat to the emerging status quo and a reminder of the persistence of superseded cultural forms in the modern marriage system. Simultaneously, she constitutes an image of female creativity and authority that speaks to concerns about the professionalization of novel-writing and the place of women writers within that profession. Through this focus on the neglected figure of the matchmaker, this dissertation reveals the essential resonances between these attempts to construct marital philosophies and the professional authorship of the marriage plots that espouse them. In the fiction of Jane Austen, Harriet Martineau, Anthony Trollope, and Henry James, matchmakers point to the competing doctrines of romantic fulfillment, personal liberty, domestic womanhood, and authorial prestige at play in the most prevalent genre of the Victorian era, the marriage plot.