Sex and Subterfuge: Women Writers to 1850

Eva Figes, Author Persea Books $10.95 (178p) ISBN 978-0-89255-129-3
Novelist Figes ( Waking ) trains her attention on the years 1790-1850, during which women ``took over the novel in England, gave it a new shape, structure and unity of intention.'' She notes that never before had women of the upper classes been so well educated, and that 25% of these women never married. Their frustration found expression in the writing of novels, one of the few socially sanctioned labors. Their fictional heroines were identically constrained: Figes undertakes the examination of women novelists' attempts to liberate their protagonists. Her discussion of the gothic novel, for example, posits that ``fantasy not only gave scope to the imagination, but made it possible for a heroine to act on her own initiative, to show positive rather than negative virtues.'' While not scholarly in her tone or her technique, Figes does presuppose a familiarity with the literature of the timei.e., the works of Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe, the Bronte sisters. Her otherwise intelligent readings are hampered by abrupt, even superficial conclusions. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1988
Release date: 10/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
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