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Modernism and the Women's Popular Romance in Britain, 1885-1925

Martin Hipsky

Publication Year: 2011

Today’s mass-market romances have their precursors in late Victorian popular novels written by and for women. In Modernism and the Women’s Popular Romance Martin Hipsky scrutinizes some of the best-selling British fiction from the period 1885 to 1925, the era when romances, especially those by British women, were sold and read more widely than ever before or since. Recent scholarship has explored the desires and anxieties addressed by both “low modern” and “high modernist” British culture in the decades straddling the turn of the twentieth century. In keeping with these new studies, Hipsky offers a nuanced portrait of an important phenomenon in the history of modern fiction. He puts popular romances by Mrs. Humphry Ward, Marie Corelli, the Baroness Orczy, Florence Barclay, Elinor Glyn, Victoria Cross, Ethel Dell, and E. M. Hull into direct relationship with the fiction of Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, and D. H. Lawrence, among other modernist greats. 

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xxi

The “low modern” and the “popular modernist” are twin classifying categories, emerging in contemporary scholarship on the modernist era, that may help us to deepen our understanding of the most widely read British literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. ...

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1. Contexts of Popular Romance, 1885-1925

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pp. 1-17

For an initial consideration of the relation of the popular romance to an emergent modernism, feminist criticism and gender studies may offer the best framework, especially as regards theories of genre and mode. Suzanne Clark’s work, for example, reveals the influence of the...

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2. Mary Ward's Romances and the Literary Field

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pp. 18-62

In this chapter, I examine the publishing history of a fin- de-siècle British novelist, Mary Arnold (Mrs. Humphry Ward), whose somewhat unenviable career vector—from Victorian totem of propriety to modernists’ lightning rod of abuse— illuminates the various material, social, and...

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3. Marie Corelli and the Discourse of Romance

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pp. 63-112

As these epigraphs show, Marie Corelli, author of the fin-de-siècle romance The Sorrows of Satan, has been a target of literary derision from her own time through the early twenty-first century. James Joyce used Corelli’s most famous novel as both a parodic inversion...

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4. The Women's Romance and the Ideology of Form

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pp. 113-151

As can be seen in the previous chapters, any simple model of high versus low in turn-of-the-century British fiction fails to account for certain beguiling complexities, such as the mobility of texts and authors on the evolving literary field, or the ideological striations of popular narrative. ...

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5. The Imperial Erotic Romance

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pp. 152-216

If the romances of Orczy, Barclay, and Glyn secularize and psychologize the romance genre in the first years of the twentieth century, then what we might call the “imperial erotic romance”—the white woman’s love story in a colonial setting—explicitly racializes the genre. ...

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6. Modernism and the Romance of Interiority

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pp. 217-260

In 1927, England’s former minister of education, Eustace Percy, voiced a common perception of his era when he announced that “the greatest ‘mind opiate’ in the world is carrying the eye along a certain number of printed lines in succession. . . . The habit of reading is one of the most...


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pp. 261-296


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pp. 297-308


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pp. 309-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443774

Publication Year: 2011