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Women's Experience of Modernity, 1875-1945

In Women's Experience of Modernity, 1875–1945, literary scholars working with a variety of interdisciplinary methodologies move feminine phenomena from the margins of the study of modernity to its center. Analyzing such cultural practices as selling and shopping, political and social activism, urban field work and rural labor, radical discourses on feminine sexuality, and literary and artistic experimentation, this volume contributes to the rich vein of current feminist scholarship on the "gender of modernism" and challenges the assumption that modernism rose naturally or inevitably to the forefront of the cultural landscape at the turn of the twentieth century.

During this period, "women's experience" was a rallying cry for feminists, a unifying cause that allowed women to work together to effect social change and make claims for women's rights in terms of their access to the public world—as voters, paid laborers, political activists, and artists commenting on life in the modern world. Women's experience, however, also proved to be a source of great divisiveness among women, for claims about its universality quickly unraveled to reveal the classism, racism, and Eurocentrism of various feminist activities and organizations.

Complementing recent attempts to historicize literary modernism by providing more thorough analyses of its material production, the essays in this volume examine both literary and non-literary writings of Jane Addams, Djuna Barnes, Toru Dutt, Radclyffe Hall, H.D., Pauline Hopkins, Emma Dunham Kelley, Amy Levy, Alice Meynell, Bram Stoker, Ida B. Wells, Rebecca West, and others as discursive events that shape our conception of the historical real. Instead of focusing exclusively or even centrally on modernism and literature, these essays address a broad array of textual materials, from political pamphlets to gynecology textbooks, as they investigate women's responses to the rise of commodity capitalism, middle-class women's entrance into the labor force, the welfare state's invasion of the working-class home, and the intensified eroticization of racial and class differences.

About the Authors

Ann L. Ardis is a professor of English at University of Delaware. She is the author of New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism and co-editor (with Bonnie Kime Scott) of Virginia Woolf Turning the Centuries: Selected Papers from the Ninth Annual conference on Virginia Woolf. Leslie W. Lewis is an associate professor of English at the College of Saint Rose.

Reviews

"The essays in this volume are outstanding in their complex representations of writers and writings readers are unlikely to know; their logical and political acuity are incisive."

- Holly A. Laird - Novel

Endorsements

"By insisting that women's experience defines modernity, and by traversing modernist and literary boundaries, the contributors to this excellent volume both recover lost cultural resources and pursue fresh lines of feminist thinking. The essays reach back to Victorian pretexts to modernity, into imperial sites, and through a rich variety of commercial and public discourses. Required reading for scholars of modernism and the modern world."

- Bonnie Kime Scott, San Diego State University
Johns Hopkins University Press
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