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Book Reviews admiring references to Benstock's and Friedman's essays, the critics are really on their own, exploring their favorite figures and their preferred modes of autobiographical expression: Mitzi Meyers on Mary Wollstonecraft's pedagogic fictions, Deborah Kaplan on Jane Austen's letters, James Holt McGraven on Dorothy Wordsworth's journals, Joanne Braxton on the legacy of the black poet, Charlotte Forten Grimké, and Nancy Walker on the letters and diaries of Emily Dickinson , Alice James and Virginia Woolf. Of these studies, the most arresting is Patricia Spack's essay on the "female rhetorics" of three remarkable eighteenth-century letter writers—Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Delany, and Elizabeth Carter. Reading these last six essays, all of them wonderfully generous in quotation, questions of "subject positions" (horrid term) seem almost quaint next to the vivid testimony of women speaking directly of and to themselves. Many could be cited, but perhaps Elizabeth Carter is terse enough to supply us our ending: "Sometimes ... I have the grace to be ashamed, and really think I am living to no kind of purpose; at others I look round the world, and see most folks in it foolishly busied, and take comfort." In that double look, inwardly turning and outwardly gazing, we glimpse the horizon scanned by women's autobiographical writing. Looking round the world, they not only took, but made comfort for themselves by taking life, as the pen, in their own hands. Maria DiBattista Princeton University An Encyclopedic View of the Woman Question Elizabeth K. Helsinger, Robin Lauterbach Sheets, and William Veeder, eds. The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America, 1837-1883. 1983; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Volume I: Defining Voices, xvii + 146 pp. $9.95 Volume II: Social Issues, xvii + 260 pp. $12.95 Volume III: Literary Issues, xvii + 237 pp. $11.95 ALTHOUGH ELIZABETH K. HELSINGER, Robin Lauterbach Sheets, and William Veeder use 1883 as the cut-off for their study of the "Woman Question," this concise three-volume study will interest students of late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature; it will be invaluable to scholars of the fascinating but convoluted woman question debates and how they are reflected in literature. Although the authors mention the "New Woman" only briefly, elements which lead to her emergence in the literature and popular imagination of the 511 ELT: Volume 33:4 1990 1880s and 90s recur in this study: women's legal rights, the nature of female sexuality, the matter of whether (and where) women should work, women's intellectual capacity, the character and needs of women artists. The controversies that raged during the nineteenth century—some of which still rage today—are cultural phenomena crucial to the work of Hardy, Gis sing, Woolf, and Henry James, among others. The volume and diversity of material related to the woman question are daunting. While these issues have been incorporated into the agendas of British and American literary history and cultural studies, it is nevertheless difficult to assemble enough texts to reflect the complex and contradictory nature of the debate as it developed; it is even more difficult to shape that material into a coherent, readable account. Yet The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America, 1837-1883 offers such an account. Acting as authors and editors, Helsinger, Sheets, and Veeder have attempted to recover the "social and cultural context" of Victorian discussions of women— the "polemical immediacy" of the conflict—by "letting the Victorians speak for themselves in the give-and-take of the original debate." The authors emphasize the responses of middle-class men and women whose "voices are no longer familiar" but who contributed to "the public discourse of their time." Thus certain well-known texts—J. S. Mill's Subjection of Women and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, for example—serve as touchstones rather than centerpieces of the study. Tb help shape their analysis the authors isolate "a set of competing , though not mutually exclusive, myths or models for woman's place in society": the Angel in the House, woman as complete equal, the Angel out of the House, and woman as saviour (the embodiment of what the authors label "apocalyptic feminism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 511-515
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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