Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers, 1889-1939

Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers, 1889-1939

Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers, 1889-1939

Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers, 1889-1939

Synopsis

Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals reintroduces the work of writers and activists whose texts, and often whose very lives, were passionately engaged in the major political issues of their times but who have been displaced from both the historical and the literary record. Focusing on seventeen writers whose common concern was radically to change the status quo, this collection of thirteen essays challenges not only the neglect of these particular writers but also the marginalization of women from British political life and literary history. This volume's recuperation of them alters our appraisal of their literary period and defines their influence on struggles still very much alive today--including the suffrage movement, feminism, anti-vivisection, reproductive rights, trade unionism, pacifism, and socialism. The radicals of 1889-1939, whether or not widely read in their own day, speak in different ways to the 'intelligent discontent' of many people in our time.

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Excerpt

Angela Ingram & Daphne Patai

Two historical events define the temporal borders of this book: London's East End dock strike in 1889 and the start of World War ii in 1939. the fifty years between these events have hardly gone unstudied, whether in terms of their politics or their culture. Yet little is known of the many British women during this period to whom writing was a form of decisive political action. These are the forgotten radicals of our title: writers in the shadows, who used fiction to give voice to their desire to see sweeping changes in their society.

The idea for this book grew out of our own work on several fascinating authors the mere mention of whom typically evoked blank looks from even our feminist colleagues. How should one explain these writers' virtual disappearance from literary history? How did writers whose texts, and often whose very lives, were so passionately engaged in the major political issues of their times--the suffrage movement, feminism, antivivisection, reproductive rights, trade unionism, pacifism, socialism, antifascism--fade so completely from both the historical and the literary record? All the writers discussed in these pages brought strong political convictions to their work. All expressed those convictions forcefully, anticipating in their readers what one of the earliest of them, Isabella Ford, called "an intelligent discontent with . . . conditions," and wishing to develop this reasoned dissatisfaction into a posture of opposition. Some wrote under pseudonyms; many found their concerns scorned as trivial or irrelevant; others were judged peripheral writers by the critical standards of their time, which presupposed a disjunction between art and politics and consigned to oblivion those who ignored or challenged this division. Some enjoyed considerable popularity in their own time but not the establishment of reputations that would have carried them into ours. the thirteen essays in our volume . . .

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