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Thread: Feminist fiction

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Feminist fiction

    Hello my fellow feminists I was just listening to Weekend Woman's Hour (BBC Radio 4). I hope you can access it if you're not in the UK. It was discussing feminist fiction. One of the books mentioned was The Odd Woman by George Gissing. It was described as an "amazing portrait of the oppression women were living through, but it's a good read as well." Of the two guests, one thought Jane Eyre was a good feminist, the other hated her. Both liked Hardy and thought Tess of the d'Urbervilles was a feminist novel (not sure about that myself). They thought Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice was more of a feminist than Emma.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Eiseabhal
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    Poor Gissing loved sluts.

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    How do you know that, Eiseabhal? Were you loved by Gissing?

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Hello my fellow feminists I was just listening to Weekend Woman's Hour (BBC Radio 4). I hope you can access it if you're not in the UK. It was discussing feminist fiction. One of the books mentioned was The Odd Woman by George Gissing. It was described as an "amazing portrait of the oppression women were living through, but it's a good read as well." Of the two guests, one thought Jane Eyre was a good feminist, the other hated her. Both liked Hardy and thought Tess of the d'Urbervilles was a feminist novel (not sure about that myself). They thought Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice was more of a feminist than Emma.
    Anyone who believes what Women's Hour has to say is naive, because it's a litany of woe on women's lives from Timbuktu to Tyneside and is the finest example of the loony left's penetration of the BBC imaginable. George Gissing was bound to be mentioned there sooner or later by virtue of his left-wing writing but, that being said, he is a very good writer whose career was blighted by his having stolen money to support a young prostitute who was on the breadline. Gissing's most famous work is New Grub Street, something that should appeal to many on this forum as it deals with the struggle of writers trying to break through into print and their recourse to hack work to keep body and soul together. Casting Women's Hour aside( always an easy thing to do), Gissing led an extraordinary life worthy of a great novel in itself but it would take a Zola or an Orwell to write it. There is, however, an excellent biography by Gillian Tindall called The Born Exile: George Gissing.
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    Chess Neely's Avatar
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    Woman's Hour is painful listening, from what memories I have of it, which is not much I must confess (though isn't 'Woman's Hour' somewhat sexist in theory anyway?) However, I can certainly see Jane Eyre as a feminist figure because she rejects the easy life of being Rochester's mistress, even though her lower social status would mean that this would be a social climb to a degree. Also in considering the famous ending line of 'reader, I married him.' Likewise Tess is also quite a forthright individual and I can certainly see that Elizabeth Bennett is more 'feminist' than Emma. So all in all I think I agree with those points anyway, even if they are hardly 'earth shattering' stuff. Kind of 'woman's hour' material.

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    Gee, I'd find literature boring if I continually looked at it through such a limited lense.
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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I have been researching George Gissing a little. He was an interesting writer. He won a scholarship, but fell in love with a prostitute, stole money from fellow students to help her, was arrested, stripped of his prizes and sent to jail for a month. He later married the prostitute, although eventually they separated. That suggests his views on women's sexual purity and marriage were more easy-going than those of some Victorian gentlemen.

    However, it seems he was not a feminist after all. He was a misogynist (linky).

    "Gissing's bleak picture of urban life, his misogyny and social conservatism, and his unsparing dissection of the human character make his novels more respected than enjoyed."

    and

    "Gissing's reputation as a feminist is problematic. The Odd Women is a fascinating study of independent new women in contrast to helpless traditional women who fall victim to poverty, genteel alcoholism, and desperately unhappy marriage. Other books expose the ways in which marriage traps both women and men, but Gissing also seems to believe that women's education destroys good housekeeping."
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I do occasionally listen to Woman's Hour, although it's really only 45 minutes. I grew up listening to feminists on the telly complaining about men during the 70s and 80s, so I hardly notice it now. Sometimes Woman's Hour discusses quite good topics from a sociological point of view, e.g. assisted suicide or grandparents' loss of contact with grandchildren after a son's divorce. Other times, I wonder whether they had to cast around for something to moan at, e.g the worrying dearth of female road diggers, or whether the wearing of pink shirts by balding, overweight men has an affect on girls' psychological development.

    I have started reading The Odd Women now. It has an unusual set of heroines. The two sisters are plain (alright then, ugly), past thirty, and skint. Their prospects are drear. No husbands, no children, only poorly paid semi-servitude to look forward to. Tess Durbeyfield was treated shabbily by two men, but at least she was pretty enough for them to take an interest in her. Jane Eyre was poor and described herself as plain, but she still managed to land a rich, charismatic land owner. I don't see anything like that happening to these ladies.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Lykren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Tess Durbeyfield was treated shabbily by two men, but at least she was pretty enough for them to take an interest in her.

    Ooh boy, I think it's great to live in a world where people think that good looks are compensation for being raped.
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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Tess recovered, then she met the other one. The point is the heroines in The Odd Women cannot rely on their good looks or personality to find a man who will rescue them from poverty. They're going to have to do it themselves. Actually, in the end, Jane Eyre wasn't rescued from poverty by Mr Rochester, because she inherited a lot of money from an uncle. Tess Durbeyfield might have been saved from poverty by either of the two men interested in her, but she was exploited by one and let down by the other. Tess never complained about being poor or having to work hard. It was love, not wealth that she wanted. Some of the farm work described in Tess sounds very hard, but I would still rather do those jobs than the jobs that were open to heroines in The Odd Women. I certainly would not fancy being a lady's companion (as a job, that is).
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    What do you think of this, written about Miss Barfoot, the director of a women's training college, considering it was written in 1893 by a bloke:

    Her studies had always been of a very positive nature; her abilities were of a kind uncommon in women, or at all events very rarely developed in one of her sex. She could have managed a large and complicated business, could have filled a place on the board of directors, have taken an active part in municipal government - nay, perchance in national...

    She held the conviction that whatever men could do, women could do equally well - those tasks excepted which demand great physical strength.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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