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Book Reviews Two on the Great War Suzanne Raitt and Trudi Tate, eds. Women's Fiction and the Great War. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997. vi + 293 pp. Cloth £40.00 Paper £14.99 Trudi Tate, ed. Women, Men and the Great War: An Anthology of Stories. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. vi + 298pp. Cloth£35.00 Paper£9.99 CAN IT ALREADY BE two and twenty years since the Imperial War Museum's seismic London exhibition and Arthur Marwick's accompanying book, Women at War 1914-18? The following year, 1978, the BBC broadcast Elaine Morgan's adaptation of Vera Brittain's war autobiography , Testament of Youth, which was repeated world-wide, Cadogan and Craig published their study, Women and Children First: Fiction of Two World Wars, and Catherine Reilly finished her bibliography of First World War poetry, identifying about 500 women who had written war poems. Virago, the feminist publishing house, played a notable part in the cultural shift that was taking place to unearth women's responses to the First World War—bringing out both a new edition of Testament of Youth and Enid Bagnold's A Diary Without Dates in 1978, as well as commissioning Reilly to edit an anthology of women's Great War poetry and verse, Scars Upon My Heart, which appeared in 1981. Together with the Feminist Press at CUNY, Virago went on to republish notable First World War novels by women, including Rebecca West's The Return of the Soldier, Irene Rathbone's We That Were Young, Evadne Price's No So Quiet... and HD's Bid Me To Live, with new scholarly introductions , as well as original studies such as Nicola Beauman's A Very Great Profession. Other studies started to appear, widening the generic scope of women's war voice: Harriet Blodgett's work on Englishwomen's diaries of the Great War (1985), Sandra Gilbert's account of (modernist) literary women in the Great War in No Man's Land (1987), and Nosheen Khan's analysis of women's war-poetry (1988). In the two decades before 1978 (the 50th and 60th anniversaries of British Women's enfranchisement, arguably as a result of their war work) more than a dozen (male-authored) books had appeared on the prose and poetry of the First World War which had scarcely acknowledged that women took part in the Great War, much less that they had 443 ELT 42 : 4 1999 written about it. (The one exception was David Mitchell's Women on the War Path.) In the years since, aided by radical publishers like Virago, Pandora and the Women's Press, female critics have taken issue with male critics such as Fussell, Cooperman and Klein and started to construct an alternative canon of war literature. It is almost unnecessary to recite the well-known women's names now associated with Great War writing—Woolf, Mansfield, Cather, Wharton, Hall—as well as the lesser known: Storm Jameson, May Sinclair, Mary Borden, et al. Nevertheless, studies of Great War writing still seem to be segregated: male critics promote male authors and female critics study female authors, with little "gathering of Nuts and May" between the two sides. (Except for the unabashed Simon Featherstone's War Poetry, which pulls vigorously away with HD's war poetry.) And now a second generation of feminist First World War literary criticism has been born. Mainly ignoring even Fussell, Hynes and Stallworthy , the critics assembled by Raitt and Tate discuss arguments put forward by earlier feminist critics: Sandra Gilbert, Sharon Ouditt, and myself. Building on the canon already under construction, they pay attention not only to Woolf, Wharton, Hall and Mansfield, but introduce new names and new works. Indeed, the title "Women's Fiction" hardly does justice to the variety and complexity of this book's contents; five of the twelve essays, which range across American and British women writers, concern genres not usually construed as fiction: memoirs, autobiography , poetry, a diary, journalism and philosophy, and these are among the most enterprising of the studies. The volume identifies new sites for contention, with Beer's study of Vernon Lee's philosophic trilogy , Satan, the Waster, Gregory's account of some of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 443-446
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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