Men and Women Writers of the 1930s: The Dangerous Flood of History

Men and Women Writers of the 1930s: The Dangerous Flood of History

Men and Women Writers of the 1930s: The Dangerous Flood of History

Men and Women Writers of the 1930s: The Dangerous Flood of History

Synopsis

Men and Women Writers of the 1930s is a searching critique of the issues of memory and gender during this dynamic decade. Montefiore asks two principle questions; what part does memory play in the political literature of and about 1930s Britain? And what were the roles of women, both as writers and as signifying objects in constructing that literature? Writers include: * George Orwell * W.H. Auden * Jean Rhys * Virginia Woolf * Storm Jameson * Rebecca West

Excerpt

'Were there any women writing then?' The innocent question was put to me in 1983, after a talk about the political-literary context of the thirties which I gave to a class of young women 'doing' the Penguin anthology Poetry of the Thirties as one of their set texts for A level English Literature. At the time, a little disconcerted, I came up with Stevie Smith's Novel on Yellow Paper, Winifred Holtby's South Riding-'and there's Virginia Woolf, of course.' The discussion had to end there because none of the young women had studied these writers, while I myself had not previously thought to set them in the context of the 1930s. Once the question had been asked, it was obvious to me that I should have done so. The following pages are the result of my attempt to think through both the question itself and its wider implications.

Needless to say, twelve years on, my list of women writers between the wars would have been far longer and would have included poets as well as novelists. But although this book is partly intended to correct the currently available gender-blind accounts of the literature of the 1930s, it does not try to make a comprehensive survey of women writers. In other words, it was not written to answer that sixth-former's question directly, although I remain deeply grateful to her for asking it. True, once I started looking for women writers, I realized that their work had flowered impressively during the 1930s, and was by no means all neglected or out of print, thanks largely to the work of Virago Press. But on the whole, this work was being marketed and read as 'women's writing', abstracted from its historical context. And although this approach (which I used myself in Feminism and Poetry) was certainly a necessary corrective to the conventional omission of women, it did not seem a good way to approach the history of a decade. First, it risked lumping heterogeneous authors together, effacing the obvious differences of genre and outlook which separate, say, politically conservative writers of detective fiction like Dorothy L. Sayers or Margery

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