Browsing English literature by Subjects
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Introduction to Fiction and 'The Woman Question' from 1850 to 1930The various aspects of ‘the Woman Question’ in the later nineteenth century, and into the twentieth century—education, suffrage, financial and emotional independence, marriage and motherhood—are all explored and debated in the chapters making up this collection. In bringing together this collection of essays, we have decided to focus attention not on famous writers or works, but on fiction written by authors who have attracted relatively little critical interest in recent years. Writers discussed include Stella Benson; Marie Corelli; Kate Chopin; Dinah Mulock Craik; Clemence Dane; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; George Gissing; Ouida and William Hale White (who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Mark Rutherford’). While no longer be as well-known as when they were publishing their novels, many of them were extremely popular with the reading public of their time, and some were compared by critics to writers who are now more often in the forefront of Victorian studies. In providing critical accounts of some key works by these writers, we hope that this collection of essays significantly extends our understanding of how fiction can be used to represent female characters who, in varying degrees and with mixed success, sought to defy the social, sexual and political constraints placed upon them. The short stories, novellas and novels considered in this volume demonstrate how fiction contributed in striking and memorable ways to debates over ‘the Woman Question’ and gender equality—debates that continue to have relevance in the twenty-first century.
Women, suffrage, and Clemence Dane: a game of speculationClemence Dane (1888-1965) was one of the newly enfranchised women eligible to vote for the first time under the suffrage act of 1918. An articulate novelist, actress and sculptor, her writings and speeches about women for magazines and the radio give us an insight into some of the complexities that faced women as they formed opinions on topical issues in the political sphere. In 1926 she collected those articles in a volume putting, as she phrased it, The Women’s Side. In this chapter I look at Dane’s explorations of The Women Question in her 1926 collection The Women’s Side, and in her own novel Legend (1919) her plays Wild Decembers (1932) about the Brontë family and Bill of Divorcement (1921) which can be read as a reflection on the story of Jane Eyre. Her imaginative talent was stimulated by the gaps in biography where the historian had to give ground to the creative artist and she drew on the licence of the actress in the interpretative performance of a personal story to create a narrative of women’s genius. Dane’s adopts the popular card game “Speculation” from Austen's Mansfield Park as a trope to explore the tensions and stresses for women as they left the familiar and expected conventions of Victorian womanhood and took up an uncertain and contested new role in society.