Victorian Popular Fictions 4.1 8 Costantini

Transatlantic Romance and the Deconstruction of Gender Norms:  Rhoda Broughton and Elizabeth Bisland’s A Widower Indeed (1891)


Mariaconcetta Costantini


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This article focuses on A Widower Indeed (1891), a novel written by Rhoda Broughton in collaboration with American journalist Elizabeth Bisland. Drawing upon gender and cultural theories, the article examines the provocative discourse woven by Broughton and Bisland, revealing the contribution they made to late-century debates on evolving models of femininity and masculinity. Besides caricaturing dominant views of True Womanhood, A Widower Indeed offers a thought-provoking characterisation of a New Woman combined with transatlantic views of femininity. Reverberations of the late-century rethinking of gender are also found in the novel’s neurotic protagonist, who is almost a parody of modern masculinity. All frustrated by social pressures to conform, these characters bear evidence of late-Victorian discussions of what it meant to be a real man or a real woman within a highly normative society that thwarted individual aspirations to free choice. In giving voice to these limitations, Broughton and Bisland addressed pressing cultural concerns of their age, establishing meaningful relations with the popular literature composed on both sides of the Atlantic.


gender politics; transatlanticism; New Woman fiction; American Girl; masculinity; Rhoda Broughton; Elizabeth Bisland.


Date of Acceptance: 27 June 2022

Date of Publication: 4 July 2022

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Costantini, Mariaconcetta. 2022. “Transatlantic Romance and the Deconstruction of Gender Norms: Rhoda Broughton and Elizabeth Bisland’s A Widower Indeed (1891).” Victorian Popular Fictions, 4:1: 126-144. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online) DOI:

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