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Daughters of Decadence: Women Writers of the Fin-de-Siècle

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At the turn of the century, short stories by -- and often about -- "New Women" flooded the pages English and American magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and the Yellow Book. This daring new fiction, often innovative in form and courageous in its candid representations of female sexuality, marital discontent, and feminist protest, shocked Victorian critics, wh At the turn of the century, short stories by -- and often about -- "New Women" flooded the pages English and American magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and the Yellow Book. This daring new fiction, often innovative in form and courageous in its candid representations of female sexuality, marital discontent, and feminist protest, shocked Victorian critics, who denounced the authors as "literary degenerates" or "erotomaniacs." This collection brings together twenty of the most original and important stories from this period. The writers included in this highly readable volume are Kate Chopin, Victoria Cross, George Egerton, Julia Constance Fletcher, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Grand, Vernon Lee, Ada Leverson, Charlotte Mew, Olive Schreiner, Edith Wharton, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and Mabel E. Wotton. As Elaine Showalter shows in her introduction, the short fiction of the Fin-de-Siecle is the missing link between the Golden Age of Victorian women writers and the new era of feminist modernism. Elaine Showalter is a professor of English at Princeton University. She is the author of A Literature of Their Own, The Female Malady, and other books, and editor of Alternative Alcott, a volume in the American Women Writers Series 


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At the turn of the century, short stories by -- and often about -- "New Women" flooded the pages English and American magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and the Yellow Book. This daring new fiction, often innovative in form and courageous in its candid representations of female sexuality, marital discontent, and feminist protest, shocked Victorian critics, wh At the turn of the century, short stories by -- and often about -- "New Women" flooded the pages English and American magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and the Yellow Book. This daring new fiction, often innovative in form and courageous in its candid representations of female sexuality, marital discontent, and feminist protest, shocked Victorian critics, who denounced the authors as "literary degenerates" or "erotomaniacs." This collection brings together twenty of the most original and important stories from this period. The writers included in this highly readable volume are Kate Chopin, Victoria Cross, George Egerton, Julia Constance Fletcher, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Grand, Vernon Lee, Ada Leverson, Charlotte Mew, Olive Schreiner, Edith Wharton, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and Mabel E. Wotton. As Elaine Showalter shows in her introduction, the short fiction of the Fin-de-Siecle is the missing link between the Golden Age of Victorian women writers and the new era of feminist modernism. Elaine Showalter is a professor of English at Princeton University. She is the author of A Literature of Their Own, The Female Malady, and other books, and editor of Alternative Alcott, a volume in the American Women Writers Series 

30 review for Daughters of Decadence: Women Writers of the Fin-de-Siècle

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    I did it again. I thought this book would be one thing, and it was something completely different. However, it turned out to be an excellent book, one I'm happy to have read even if it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Elaine Showalter begins this most excellent book with the observation that when we stop to consider "the literature of the fin de siècle, the writers who come most readily to mind are men." She has a great point -- I own quite a hefty and still-growing library of fin-de-siècle li I did it again. I thought this book would be one thing, and it was something completely different. However, it turned out to be an excellent book, one I'm happy to have read even if it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Elaine Showalter begins this most excellent book with the observation that when we stop to consider "the literature of the fin de siècle, the writers who come most readily to mind are men." She has a great point -- I own quite a hefty and still-growing library of fin-de-siècle literature and sure enough, all of the books that I own, without exception, are written by men. Showalter goes on to say that while "women were a major presence in the new literary world of the 1880s and 1890s," they had also been "overshadowed" not just by the major male novelists of the time (Conrad and Wilde are the examples she offers here), but also by those she calls "minor novelists," such as Stoker or Haggard. The women represented here (and others writing at the time) were writing "with unprecedented candour about female sexuality, marital discontent, and their own aesthetic theories and aspirations; and speaking to -- and about -- the New Women of the fin de siècle." It's a wonderful book; while a few of the authors were already known to me, -- Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin, Vernon Lee and Charlotte Perkins Gilman --reading the work of the unknowns for the first time was a great experience. I had three particular favorites here: "A White Night," by Charlotte Mew, which takes place in an old Catholic church in Spain while a wife, her new husband, and her brother are touring the countryside while the newlyweds are on their honeymoon. It's not so much what happens in this book that's behind why I enjoyed it so much (although I must say, it was pretty horrific and the setting heightens the reading experience) but rather it's the outcome as husband and wife are later going over what had happened there. A true eye-opener, to be sure. In second place on the favorites list is "The Muse's Tragedy," by Edith Wharton, a story that is just plain sad, but actually reveals an awful truth; and finally, "The Fifth Edition," by Mabel Wooton, which focuses on an "exploitative male novelist" who is asked to look at an autobiographical novel given to him by its female author. [ Just as an of-interest-maybe FYI, Wooton's tale is not the only one featuring a woman writer and her relationship with a male author -- Vernon Lee picks up this idea with her splendid "Lady Tal", as does Constance Fenimore Woolson with her "Miss Grief", both of whom had Henry James in mind while writing their stories.] Wondeful book; highly recommended for anyone interested in women writers of the period or in the history of women writers or the history of feminism in general. http://www.readingavidly.com/2017/07/...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leanne (Booksandbabble)

    3.5

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lucia

    I loved this collection of short stories. Elaine Showalter's introduction is highly interesting and insightful. It does a good job of curating the stories she has compiled in this book. She brings together a series of stories by turn of the century writers, some well-known and others not. Each story prompts the reader to question the social or political context that informs the writing. Many of these stories are still relevant to the current era, showing how far we progressed in women's rights a I loved this collection of short stories. Elaine Showalter's introduction is highly interesting and insightful. It does a good job of curating the stories she has compiled in this book. She brings together a series of stories by turn of the century writers, some well-known and others not. Each story prompts the reader to question the social or political context that informs the writing. Many of these stories are still relevant to the current era, showing how far we progressed in women's rights and also how far we still have to go. I found the stories of Olive Schreiner to be particularly interesting and inspiring and I am glad Showalter's book has introduced me to her writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    This is one of the few books that I was expected to read for a college English course that I actually enjoyed and kept the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rocío G.

    In the 1880s and 1890s, the so-called ‘woman question’ —does society owe women the same liberties and advantages afforded to men?— was brought to the forefront of British and American fiction. Short stories by and about 'New Women', women who were upfront about their desires, unhappiness and genius,began to crowd literary publications. This collection brings together many such stories. It includes the classic ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ alongside many other tales of stifled female freedom. I particula In the 1880s and 1890s, the so-called ‘woman question’ —does society owe women the same liberties and advantages afforded to men?— was brought to the forefront of British and American fiction. Short stories by and about 'New Women', women who were upfront about their desires, unhappiness and genius,began to crowd literary publications. This collection brings together many such stories. It includes the classic ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ alongside many other tales of stifled female freedom. I particularly enjoyed the horrors of Charlotte Mew’s ‘ A White Night’ and the quiet heartbreak of ‘The Buddhist Priest’s Wife’ by Olive Shreiner. An interesting thread running through some of these stories is the precarious situation of the woman author within the male republic of letters. Tales of appropriated work, appropriated lives and unappreciated talent from Mabel Wotton’s devastating ‘The Fifth Edition’ and the unassuming sadness of ‘Miss Grief’ by Constance Fenimore Woolson, to Vernon Lee’s delightful send-up of Henry James in ‘Lady Tal’. Of these, my favorite was Edith Wharton's 'The Muse's Tragedy', which touches on the loneliness of a life immortalized by a great poet. Though not usually a fan of heavy-handed symbolism, I rather enjoyed the feminist allegories at the end of the volume. According to Showalter in the introduction, Schreiner's in particular were favourites of imprisoned suffragettes. In their lowest moments, they turned to these fables for strength, to renew their faith in the world they wanted to build for women.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    The first half is pretty good and includes the classic,"The Yellow Wallpaper," the short story by Gilman that is about a woman with post-natal depression who is gaslighted by her physician husband so bad that she goes insane. The second half is writing, but not what I'd call decadent, even for the times. The first half is pretty good and includes the classic,"The Yellow Wallpaper," the short story by Gilman that is about a woman with post-natal depression who is gaslighted by her physician husband so bad that she goes insane. The second half is writing, but not what I'd call decadent, even for the times.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Keaton

    read "Theodora: A Fragment" by Victoria Cross, "Suggestion" by Ada Leverson, "A Cross Line" by George Egerton, "She-Notes" by "Borgia Smudgiton", "Miss Grief" by Constance Fenimore Woolson, and "Lady Tal" by Vernon Lee read "Theodora: A Fragment" by Victoria Cross, "Suggestion" by Ada Leverson, "A Cross Line" by George Egerton, "She-Notes" by "Borgia Smudgiton", "Miss Grief" by Constance Fenimore Woolson, and "Lady Tal" by Vernon Lee

  8. 4 out of 5

    Yllacaspia

    A fantastic collection of works by women around the turn of the 20th Century, offering a fantastic counterpoint and compare/contrast to the work being produced by men at the time. Contains some truly superb stories, including Vernon Lee's Lady Tal. A fantastic collection of works by women around the turn of the 20th Century, offering a fantastic counterpoint and compare/contrast to the work being produced by men at the time. Contains some truly superb stories, including Vernon Lee's Lady Tal.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey Thomson

    Phenomenal collection of short stories by women writers in the fin-de-siècle. Some of my favorites were Lady Tal, The Yellow Wallpaper and The Muse's Tragedy. Phenomenal collection of short stories by women writers in the fin-de-siècle. Some of my favorites were Lady Tal, The Yellow Wallpaper and The Muse's Tragedy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    This has got to be one of my favourite feminist publications to date. I wasn't a huge fan of it at first because I didn't understand the stories, but I was adamant that I'd use them in my English coursework. As a result of doing this, I gained a much better understanding of the nuanced (and sometimes merely overt) ways in which the authors portrayed the patriarchy and the struggle that the female protagonists fought against it. The three stories I did for coursework (and that I'd highly recommend This has got to be one of my favourite feminist publications to date. I wasn't a huge fan of it at first because I didn't understand the stories, but I was adamant that I'd use them in my English coursework. As a result of doing this, I gained a much better understanding of the nuanced (and sometimes merely overt) ways in which the authors portrayed the patriarchy and the struggle that the female protagonists fought against it. The three stories I did for coursework (and that I'd highly recommend) are: - The Yellow Wallpaper - A White Night - The Buddhist Priest's Wife As well as a wonderful selection of short stories, the introductory essay is a great piece of literary criticism, perfect for those using the book in an assessed piece of work, or those simply wanting to know more about the kind of literature the book contains.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joti

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. What a great collection of stories!! Some favourites were The Muse’s Tragedy, Emancipation: A Life Fable, The Valley of Childish Things, Suggestion, Theodora: A Fragment The second half of the collection really seemed to go deep into the New Women ideas at the end of the century while the first half really emphasizes exoticism. But they really are fascinating little pieces!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Traci-Anne

    This book contains one of my favorite short stories (The Yellow Wallpaper). All of the stories contained in the book are just as genius and poignant. It is a recommended read for anyone who loves women writers and if you don't love women writers, you should read it to change your mind. This book contains one of my favorite short stories (The Yellow Wallpaper). All of the stories contained in the book are just as genius and poignant. It is a recommended read for anyone who loves women writers and if you don't love women writers, you should read it to change your mind.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Annie Davies

    Only a few stories in this collection that I enjoyed but it is a decent collection of feminist writings. Particularly enjoyed The Yellow Wallpaper.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dfordoom

    Not very decadent, and a bit too earnest, but woth a few good stories.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ella Scott

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emily B

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mr Dan I Silas

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gabriele

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julie Dombrosky

  23. 5 out of 5

    Molly Horne

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Evans

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jules

  26. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kieran Bates

  28. 4 out of 5

    John

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meg

  30. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

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