New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism

New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism

New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism

New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism

Excerpt

She was called "Novissima": the New Woman, the Odd Woman, the Wild Woman, and the Superfluous Woman in English novels and periodicals of the 1880s and 1890s. A tremendous amount of polemic was wielded against her for choosing not to pursue the conventional bourgeois woman's career of marriage and motherhood.Indeed, for her transgressions against the sex, gender, and class distinctions of Victorian England, she was accused of instigating the second fall of man.The anonymous author of an 1889 Westminster Review article, for example, claims that the New Woman's attempts to transform herself from a relative creature into a woman of independent means are "intimately connected" with "the stirrings and rumblings now perceivable in the social and industrial world, the 'Bitter Cries' of the disinherited classes, the 'Social Wreckage' which is becoming able to make itself unpleasantly prominent, the 'Problems of Great Cities,' the spread of Socialism and Nihilism." Having noted that social change, once instigated, cannot be revoked, this author ends his essay by reminding his readers of an ancient fable with a modern moral. When the Fisherman liberated the genii in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, the genii "promptly rewarded him by proposing to annihilate . . .

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