Every non-canonical male aesthete in Victorian England once competed with what Talia Schaffer calls the female aesthetes, whose critical and popular success made them formidable contemporaries. Not only did these women make significant contributions to the development of feminist ideologies, they pioneered new literary strategies that were incorporated by their canonical successors. In this text, Schaffer analyzes writers such as Lucas Malet (Mary Harrison), Ouida (Marie Louise de la Ramee), Alice Meynell, Rosamund Marriott Watson, Una Ashworth Taylor, Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Mary and Jane Findlater, and John Oliver Hobbes (Pearl Craigie). These women used aestheticism to forge a compromise between the two models of female identity available to them - the New Woman and the Angel in the House. They developed plots, ideas, and styles that would later be adopted, parodied, or revised by canonical writers such as Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy and Henry James. They used the ""pretty"" language of aestheticism as a strategic cover behind which they could attempt radical experiments, many of which prefigure modernist innovations. Talia Schaffer hopes that recovering the lost work of the female aesthetes will force us to reconsider the central tenets of late-Victorian literary theory.
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Number of pages: 258
Weight: 649 g
Dimensions: 234 x 156 x 26 mm
Absorbing and provocative, Schaffer's 'mapping' of female aestheticism enhances and, indeed, transforms our comprehension of the fin de siecle. Her valuable recuperation of the work of aesthetic women reveals a rich material and literary culture integral to the aesthetic movement. Ranging from poetry to textiles and from Alice Meynell to Thomas Hardy, The Forgotten Female Aesthetes is attentive to the delightful and exasperating complexities of artistic production in this fertile and little-understood period.
--Pamela Gilbert, University of Florida