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date: 09 December 2018

Abstract and Keywords

The so-called New Woman novel was a popular late-Victorian literary genre about middle-class working women’s daily lives. This essay begins by exposing the instability of the ‘New Woman’ designation, which writers deployed to characterize everything from the masculinized female political agitator to the aggressive seductress. Moreover, New Women novelists themselves had a wide range of political positions, making it hard to fix the movement’s central goals. Their novels, however, do share proto-modernist stylistic experiments, including their use of fragmentation, dream sequences, interpolated manifestos, and multiple points of view. The essay concludes by charting the critical reception of the New Woman novel, from the scornful reviews of their peers to the appreciation for their literary merit and ideas that has developed in more recent years, with special attention to the recovery of New Women in the 1970s, the critical breakthroughs of the 1990s, and contemporary trends in New Women criticism.

Keywords: New Woman, Genre, Feminism, Modernism, Realism, Allegory, Fragmentation, Popular, Reception, Fin de Siècle

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