Introduction To “Writing Women of the Fin de Siècle: Authors of Change,” by Adrienne E. Gavin and Carolyn W. de la Oulton

Wikis > The "New Woman" > Introduction To "Writing Women of the Fin de Siècle: Authors of Change," by Adrienne E. Gavin and Carolyn W. de la Oulton

In this introduction to Gavin and Oulton’s book “Writing Women of the Fin de Siècle: Authors of Change,” the authors give us good general insight into the rest of the book, as well as the New Woman figure herself. 

We are first situated precisely in the writing and authorship of New Women and how these women continuously and consciously subverted cultural Victorian norms – whether through their writing or through the act of writing itself. Essentially, women writers were active and aware of their effect as women writers. They centred stories around issues involving femininity and feminism. The authors go on to outline the emergence of what was known as the “Shrieking Sisterhood,” where the New Woman figure was often aligned with this view of shrieking women (1-2). The introduction also sets New Woman writers next to women writers who actively denounced New Woman’s culture. The authors also outline their argument of challenging the New Woman figure as merely “a self-conscious rebel or political agitator” (3). The authors go on to outline how a sense of community among women writers may have contributed to this trend of New Women. They also mention the hysteria against athleticism and later outline some works which explore this phenomenon against the New Woman. Ultimately, the introduction outlines a text that aims to answer the question: “On what basis can a writer who actively rejects the term [New Woman] still be seen as a New Woman?” (11)

I found this source very helpful and interesting in diving into a general description of the New Woman figure and how it is that we come to understand the New Woman writer as subversive. We also get a glimpse into the complexity of the New Woman figure in that the woman who writes to denounce the New Woman could potentially be seen as a New Woman herself. It is a good starting point to begin an understanding of the New Woman in the late Victorian era and how we can apply this to our understanding of Ella D’Arcy’s “At Twickenham” in particular.

Gavin, Adrienne E., and Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton. “‘She would write… in invisible ink’: An Introduction.” Writing Women of the Fin De Siècle: Authors of Change. London, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, pp. 1–12.

  • Sabrina Pavelic