Ladies Pets and the Politics of Affect: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Flush


The epistolary writing of Elizabeth Barrett Browning provides a valuable historical record of intense affective canine/human relationships in the nature-culture borderlands of the intimate domestic sphere, where dogs occupied a precarious and ambiguous status at best. This essay contends that Barrett Browning's writing about her dog, Flush, complicates dominant theories of pet keeping, revealing that positive as well as negative affect is an important mechanism by which the boundaries that organise the species divide are questioned and transgressed. Central to this investigation is a reconsideration of Victorian constructions of sentiment and sentimentality, the pejorative connotations of which have ensured that both pet keeping, and women's relationships to pets, have been downplayed in scholarly discussion.

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Published 1 June 2010 in Volume 25 No. 2. Subjects: Animal Studies.

Cite as: McDonell, Jennifer. ‘Ladies Pets and the Politics of Affect: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Flush.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 25, no. 2, 2010, doi: 10.20314/als.18c0ef3fdc.