In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews Angélique Richardson and Chris Willis, eds. TheNew Woman in Fiction andin Fad: Fin de Siede Feminisms. (Palgrave, 2002), pp. 258 + xvi, $19.95. So many books have been published recently on the topic of the New Woman that I tend to greet another with the protest, "What could still be new about the New Woman?" Certainly, the aim ofPalgrave Press's latest offering on the subject — an essay collection entitled The New Woman in Fiction andin Fact: Fin-de-Siecle Feminisms, — is not a new one. In claiming to reveal the "polyphonic nature of the debates around feniininity at [thefin de sieck]," the book may be added to a list ofsuccessful books published over the past decade — such as Sally Ledger and Scott McCracken's CulturalPolitics atthe Fin de Sieck (1995), Susan Hamilton's Criminah, Idiots, Women, &Minors': Nineteenth-Century Writing by Women on Women, and Talia Schaffer and Kathy Alexis Psomiades's Women andBritishAestheticism (1999) — dedicated to excavating the heterogeneity ofNew Woman culture. If the book's premise is an old one, however, some ofthe voices are new: alongside the "usual suspects" ofNew Woman Scholarship — Ann Ardis, Sally Ledger, Lyn Pykett, Talia Schaffer, and Angélique Richardson — the reader encounters scholars like Laura Marcus, who brings her considerable expertise as a psychoanalytic critic to bear on the New Woman in her article, "Staging the Trivate Theatre': Gender and the Auto-Erotics of Reverie." Familiar and unfamiliar scholars alike contribute to this scholarly cartography oífin de Steele culture, and ifit does not necessarily broaden the boundaries of our understanding, it definitely maps in the details ofprevious studies in literary genre, colonialism, eugenic, utopianism, and late Victorian medical discourse, among other turn-of-the-century cultural concerns. Reflecting the investment in "fact" and "fiction" expressed in the collection's title, Angélique Richardson and Chris Willis's lengthy introduction splits its focus between nineteenth-century women's socio-political history and fictional representations ofthe New Woman. The broad scope ofthe editors' historical discussion — Victorian Review97 Reviews which comprehends the period from Wollstonecraft's publication of Vindication ofthe Rights ofWoman (1792) to the turn of the century — was, perhaps, more ambitious than it needed to be; however, such breadth does suit it for use as a general introduction for students fairly new to the topic. Considering the challenge of such scope, the historical survey manages to include a surprising amount of detail. In fact, at times, the statistics quoted become a bit tedious; might the reader not, for example, be trusted to infer the growth ofwomen's higher education at the turn of the century from one or two examples, rather than be plagued by an exhaustive catalogue ofBritish educational institutions and their respective policies. If the editors' copious details seem, at times, overly comprehensive or even annoyingly arcane (exactly how significant is it, for instance, that Wollstonecraft's Vindication happened to be banned from Horace Walpole's library?), it is only fair to point out that such close attention to the historical record does at many times prove extremely fruitful. Particularly interesting, for instance, was the fact that marital rape was still legal in Britain until 1991, a compelling reminder that, because institutionalized gender inequality is not safely contained in the past or specific to thefin de sieck, a discussion ofNew Woman feminism is extremely relevant for readers today. As Richardson and Willis shifted from their historical survey (New Woman as "fact") to a discussion ofartistic and journalistic representation (New Woman as "fiction"), I must admit my disappointment at the ease with which they accepted such distinctions. Surprisingly little attempt was made to address the slipperiness ofthese terms — fact and fiction — or the problems of such categorizations. I do appreciate, however, the editors' attention to the visual register in their analysis offin de sieck representations of the New Woman. By including various cartoons and illustrations of the New Women from contemporary serials, Richardson and Willis force us to recognize the frequently overlooked fact that the period's "visual iconography" played as significant a role in the fictionalization ofthe New Woman as contemporary novels and essays did (13). The introduction draws to a close with a brief summary ofthe collection...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 97-102
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.