A domestic feminist: the new woman and the rhetoric of British literary modernism, 1880-1935Show full item record
|A domestic feminist: the new woman and the rhetoric of British literary modernism, 1880-1935
|Walls, Elizabeth MacLeod
|Doctor of Philosophy
|The dissertation examines how the political rhetoric of Victorian New Woman novels was appropriated in the early twentieth century as a new methodology for containing militant feminism and other radical movements. From 1880¿1900, New Woman novels offered sites in which Victorian women, speaking in the guise of idealistic protagonists, could offer sharp criticisms of marriage, patriarchy, and society from within the domestic space, thereby developing what I term ¿domestic feminism.¿ By taking up Thomas Hardy's call for ¿candour in English fiction,¿ harnessing the fervor generated by reform movements, and adopting the aesthetics of the Decadents, these proto-feminist authors of the 1880s and 1890s represented topical issues about women's social roles in their fictions. Twentieth-century literature seemed to move away from the activist rhetoric of the New Woman. Along with all things Victorian, modernist writers now deemed New Woman fiction sentimental rather than subversive¿little more than a curious literary artifact representing the didactic art of Britain's Victorian past. The dissertation evaluates the conservative impact of New Woman fiction on the formation of the rhetoric of modernism and shows that in the face of escalating militancy, radical socialism, and the loss of Britain's imperial prestige, the New Woman schemata of domestic feminism presented a mollifying solution to the ¿problem¿ of modernist upheaval. While in the nineteenth century the New Woman's activism complemented the more moderate rhetoric of proto-feminist legal reformers, in the twentieth century this literary and historical figure, though publicly shunned for her supposedly artless melodrama, was reinvented in novels that posed as new alternatives to Victorian prudery and aesthetics. Modernists such as E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh, and Virginia Woolf cast New Woman doctrines into relief by re-animating her rhetoric within their seemingly progressive narratives, therefore offering a ¿new¿ rendering of a feminist ideology that helped to ameliorate the new rhetoric of militancy. In so doing, these texts collaborated indirectly with the domestic feminism engendered by New Woman fiction, proffering a strategy of containment that took its origins from an initially radical nineteenth-century challenge to traditional femininity.
|Hughes, Linda K.
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- Doctoral Dissertations