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The Woman Reader 1837–1914$
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Kate Flint

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198121855

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198121855.001.0001

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‘New Woman’ Fiction

‘New Woman’ Fiction

(p.294) 11 ‘New Woman’ Fiction
The Woman Reader 1837–1914

Kate Flint

Oxford University Press

At first sight, the controversy induced by the emergence of the ‘New Woman’ fiction in the 1890s bears a close similarity to the wave of anxiety expressed about the sensation novel some thirty years earlier. The writers of the 1890s laid particular stress on the part played by men in spreading venereal disease, and on indicating that this was just one of the aspects of sexuality about which girls were unlikely to learn anything before they were married. They also emphasized rationality and interrogation. If the issue of women’s reading in the 1890s becomes most active around the question of access to knowledge, particularly sexual knowledge, then it follows that the attainment of that knowledge can effectively be described and dramatized in ways which challenge the conventions used to delineate the tastes and capacities of women readers. In the New Woman fiction, not only were sexual and marital issues discussed with frankness, but, more importantly, women were offered images of articulacy and efforts at self-determination.

Keywords:   New Woman fiction, women, reading, venereal disease, sexual knowledge, women readers, sexuality, marriage, rationality

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