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ELT 36 : 1 1993 periodicals? If he has read them, he has missed a valuable opportunity for original work in cultural analysis. We would like to know what such texts convey about English society and government during this volatile period. In sum, Popu^ Fiction in England, 1914-1918 is likely to be of restricted interest for specialists of the period, especially those few of the so-called Edwardian or Georgian persuasion. The bibliography, although wide-ranging, often bears little direct relationship to the specific literary texts which the author has chosen to critique. Cecil D. Eby University of Michigan Victorian Feminists Barbara Caine. Victorian Feminists. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. xix + 284pp. $32.95 IN HER PREFACE, Professor Caine eschews "any form of psychoanalytic approach" to the subjects in her book and any deconstruction of "their texts" and avers that she is concerned "not so much with individual personalities and conflicts in themselves as with ways in which individuals experience particular versions of the general situation of women." Hence the book seeks to explain the nature of feminist belief and ideas in terms of their place within an individual life within a broad social, economic, and political framework. The biographies . . . often concentrate on the question of how these particular women experienced the general situation of Victorian women within their own familial and social settings, how and why they came to see it as oppressive and as wrong, and what they chose to do about it. Caine, however, also admits that her view of the subjects in this "collective biography" reflects her personal feminist beliefs and experience and, within this context, she succeeds quite well in achieving her objective by providing another estimate and dimension of the lives and work of Sarah Emily Davies (1830-1921), Frances Power Cobbe (18221904 ), Josephine Butler (1828-1906), and Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929). The careers of these renowned Victorian feminists have already been well delineated during the past decade by Nancy Boyd, Brian Harrison, Jane Lewis, and, more recently, in excellent biographies of Davies by Daphne Bennett and of Fawcett by David Rubinstein. Caine provides a frame of reference for her biographical studies in a perceptive introduction and in a lengthy analysis of "Feminism and the 108 BOOK REVIEWS Woman Question in Early Victorian England." In the former, which is basically an attempt to define Victorian feminism, she concludes that as a result of historical research on "the expanding public role of late Victorian women" during the past decade, "there is now a widespread recognition of the importance of Victorian feminists attached to establishing and maintaining sexual differences between men and women." She is also convinced that the "idea that the English women's movement was concerned primarily, even exclusively, with gaining access for women to the public sphere, has given way to an ever-increasing recognition of the extent of Victorian feminist concern with the oppression of women in domestic life, in marriage, and in all forms of sexual relations." Thus Caine emphasizes "the diversity and complexity of Victorian feminism by exploring the intellectual approach of four prominent Victorian feminists" and especially "the interaction between [their] personal experiences, political experiences, political attitudes, religious beliefs, social values on the one hand, and feminist ideas and activities on the other." One of the most interesting facets of Caine's discussion of "Feminism in Early Victorian England" is the conflict between the feminists and Positivism. For Victorian feminists, Auguste Comte and his leading British disciple, Frederic Harrison, were the most dangerous antifeminist social theorists. The feminists rejected Comte's according only moral and religious roles to women in his scheme for an effective modern society. Frances Power Cobbe, Josephine Butler, and Millicent Fawcett bitterly assailed these Positivist views on the position of women, especially as espoused by Harrison. Their major objection to Positivism was its denial of autonomy to women; Butler deemed Harrison's concept that women should be excluded from all industrial employment and looked after by their husbands as inordinately offensive. Indeed, as Caine indicates, all three women accused the Positiviste of "complete ignorance of the real situation and needs of women" and denounced Harrison 's pronouncements on the moral status of women...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 108-110
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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