Edging Women Out: Victorian Novelists, Publishers, and Social Change

Gaye Tuchman, Author, Nina E. Fortin, With, Nina Fortin, Contribution by Yale University Press $42 (288p) ISBN 978-0-300-04316-7
Before 1840, most English novelists were women, and the writing of novels generally conferred a lowly status. But by 1900, ``men of letters'' hailed the novel as a great art form, and the majority of successful novelists were men. How male writers invaded and took over this white-collar occupation is the phenomenon investigated in this bombshell of a book, a delightful synthesis that cuts across women's studies, sociology and literary history. Sociologist Tuchman of Queens College in N.Y., and City University of New York, aided by her research assistant Fortin, now deceased, portrays Victorian publishers and editors as culture brokers protecting their own class interests by relegating women writers to ``popular'' fictional entertainments with broad appeal, while male ``high-culture'' novelists took the high road of ideas and purposive action. Victorian critics reinforced these notions with a double standard: women, they claimed, had a natural bent for artless writing and sharp-eyed observation of the social scene, while fiction by men was said to be more philosophic, original, self-reflective and difficult. As a result, English women novelists in the late 19th century were writing more and moreyet rewarded less and less. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
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