Jane Williams (Ysgafell) (1806-85) and nineteenth-century Welsh identity

  • Gwyneth Tyson Roberts

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the life and work of Jane Williams (Ysgafell) and her relation to nineteenth-century Welsh identity and Welsh culture. Williams's writing career spanned more than fifty years and she worked in a wide range of genres (poetry, history, biography, literary criticism, a critique of an official report on education in Wales, a memoir of childhood, and religious tracts). She lived in Wales for much of her life and drew on Welsh, and Welshlanguage, sources for much of her published writing. Her body of work has hitherto received no detailed critical attention, however, and this thesis considers the ways in which her gender and the variety of genres in which she wrote (several of which were genres in which women rarely operated at that period) have contributed to the omission of her work from the field of Welsh Writing in English. The thesis argues that this critical neglect demonstrates the current limitations of this academic field. The thesis considers Williams's body of work by analysing the ways in which she positioned herself in relation to Wales, and therefore reconstructs her biography (current accounts of much of her life are inaccurate or misleading) in order to trace not only the general trajectory of this affective relation, but also to examine the variations and nuances of this relation in each of her published works. The study argues that the liminality of Jane Williams's position, in both her life and work, corresponds closely to many of the important features of the established canon of Welsh Writing in English. Therefore, the parameters of this rapidlydeveloping field should be extended to permit the inclusion of her writing.
Date of Award25 Feb 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorSarah Prescott (Supervisor) & Louise Marshall (Supervisor)

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