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

HUMANITIES 267 'arbitrary' or contrary about the experience of reading Aurora Floyd. The editors of the second modern edition in as many years, the only one based on the first three-volume edition which so shocked its first readers, are to be commended for this cogent edition which locates the text withln its contemporary cultural context and highlights provocative questions about realism, femininity, and marriage. The Broadview Aurora FlotJd is an important contribution to Braddon studies and to the appreciation of the impact of popular fiction on social debates. (ANN-BARBARA GRAFF) George Gissing. The Odd Women. Edited by Arlene Young Broadview Press. 416. $15.95 The extreme conscientiousness which Arlene Young has brought to Broadview 's superb new edition ofGeorge Gissing's The Odd Women can perhaps best be indicated by the note that accompanies the undated cover photo of women operators working Glasgow's first multiple telephone switchboard. While the novel makes no mention of the telephone system as an employer of female labour, the reader is told, this is 'the kind of white-collar, public sector work that Rhoda Nunn and Mary Barfoot see as the salvation of middle-class women in the 1890'S.' Contextualization is the essential intent of this editionl and the wealth of highly detailed information provided by Young elucidates the novel in manifold ways. Rhoda Nunn and Mary Barfoot are late-Victorian feminists who jointly run an edueational scheme to train women in the use of the typewriter and other business methods. Gissing viewed the 'Woman Question' with intelligent sympathy: the odd women of the title are 'odd' in a demographic way, not in any pejorative sense. By 1893 (the year of publication) a number ofVictorians had come to realize that it was a statistical impossibility for all women to provide for themselves by marriage - a large number would necessarily remain single (/odd' or not paired evenly offinto couplehood) and must lookto their own labour for maintenance. Rhoda's and Mary's efforts are complicated by personal feelings: one pupil forsakes her training to enter into a disastrous, conventional marriage, and Rhoda herself falls in love with Mary's cousin Everard. Gissing was always fascinated by contemporary social trends and structured many of his novels around sociological observation. In The Odd Women this tendencyis particularlyapparent, the issues tmder examination includingnot only marriage, female employment, and gender ideology,but also free love, genteel alcoholism, and class relations. As Young remarks in her introductionl Gissing's novel stands as 'a literary, cultural, and historical document of outstanding importance.' To ensure that this importance is fully recognized, Young has supported the text with an impressive number of appendixes, including a generous 268 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 selection of contemporary reviews; a sampling of Victorian views on marriage ranging from Ruskin (whose 'Of Queens' Gardens' is referred to approvingly within the novel by the pathologically oppressive heavy husband Widdowson) to J. S. Milli a number of contributions to the debate on the 'Woman Question'; and various excerpts dealing with the possibilities and conditions of both male and female labour in the nineteenth centUIY. For the most part, these appendixes are exceptionally well chosen. It is especially enjoyable to be confronted with such a range of genre: Young includes selections from Tennyson's The Princess (another narrative about a female educational project threatened by intrusive romantic love), Coventry Patmore, Charlotte Bronte, and H.G. Wells as well as the more expected voices of T.H. Huxley, Bernard Shaw, Mona Caird, and E.L. Linton. Particularly illuminating are the selections from Evelyn March Phillips, Frances H. Low, and Eliza Orme dealing with the difficulties encountered by single women, genteel by upbringing but without money, who must work or starve, but for whom little suitable employment is available. Somewhatless immediately relevant to Gissing's novel, although still of great interest, are the appendixes dealing with male white-collar workers: an excerpt from Kipps is well paired here with a selection from Wells's Experiment in Autobiography. Excellent as the appendixes are~ they do not constitute the sole strength of this edition. Particularly noteworthy is Yoting's introduction, in which she skilfully anatomizes the semiotics of late-Victorian class and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 267-268
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
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.