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BOOK REVIEWS anees, from academic theatre through community theatre) as mirroring its society, especially as these works not only "contributed to a popular understanding about the causes and the meaning of the War but how they operated as vehicles for patriotic inculcation and national fervour." The many examples of actual verses and scenes she presents are indeed a fine sampling of the amateur theatricals which abound and far outnumber those published and ultimately added to the canon. Potter has also given us a great clue for further work on the pageants in the War Poetry Collection at the Birmingham Reference Library which contains over twenty plays written by women, less than a quarter of which are held in copyright libraries. Indeed the "hidden drama" Potter refers to in her title consists of the many "scripts, published or in manuscript form ... more likely to be found outside larger institutions and libraries." The remaining essay which treats of the ELT era concerns two plays by Eva Gore Booth in an essay by Margaret Llewellyn-Jones that also touches on Sean O'Casey's The Silver Tassie (1928). Both playwrights share visions of Ireland and of women, real and mythologized. "In Gore Booth's plays," we are told, "the female protagonists' identities are more fluid" than in O'Casey's: both move from public space towards the "interiorised country of the mind." This is an important point in that space is one of the key elements Gore Booth uses to disrupt realism, thereby to protest war, and to assert a pacifist stance through "gendered spatial metaphor." Llewellen-Smith's argument about space, theatrically considered , is intriguing not only from a theoretical viewpoint but also for a practical series of potential directorial choices for her plays. Other essays in the volume are worth noting as representing later re-workings of the Great War period in film and television, in plays of Australia, Canada, and Ireland which are expertly presented to us in this extraordinary work. The variety of works and their varied strengths make this a book that has many rewards. In all, it is a volume of very strong essays, strongly written, for the most part, with solid scholarship and clear appeal. John J. Conlon The University of Massachusetts, Boston Women's Comic Fiction Margaret Stetz. British Women's Comic Fiction, 1890-1990:Not Drowning , But Laughing. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001. xv + 151 pp. $59.95 473 ELT 45 : 4 2002 THE FIRST point I want to make about Margaret Stetz's British Women's Comic Fiction concerns what it does not do. It does not argue that women's humor is politically subversive or resistant. It does not insist that comic fiction is an underappreciated genre due for reconsideration . It does not have chapters on the humor of canonical texts from Austen through Woolf. In short, it falls into none of the clichés that one might expect. Indeed, Stetz not only avoids the obvious, she actually takes the most challenging alternatives. Like a seismograph, Stetz registers the tiniest fluctuation or tremor of humor in the grimmest of subjects : the Holocaust, suicide, violence, trauma, isolation, exclusion, and despair. Her interest is in mapping a particular sort of feminist humor and showing how it has functioned as a tool—a limited and perhaps not always useful tool—in helping women cope with oppression over the last hundred years. Stetz begins with a fascinating chapter on New Women's comic fiction , perhaps the material of the most interest for readers of ELT. Pointing out how often fin-de-siècle conservatives condemned feminists for humorlessness, Stetz cleverly turns the tables by analyzing the types of humor in these very condemnations. What she finds is that the misogynistic anti-New Women satires were particularly virulent, while women's satire tended to be surprisingly mild. Stetz demonstrates how Alice Meynell critiqued misogynistic laughter and Laura Marholm Hansson ambivalently analyzed women's own comic views of men. In neither case do these women find humor particularly helpful in developing positive feminist positions, and these limits persist in the fiction of Ella Hepworth Dixon and E. Nesbit. Dixon and Nesbit can use humor to critique male assumptions and...


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pp. 473-477
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