'On mentioning the unmentionable' : feminism, little magazines, and the case of Rebecca West
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Recent projects conducted by The Universities of De Montfort, Nottingham, and Sussex, U.K. and Brown University in Providence, U.S.A., have highlighted the wealth of under-researched material contained in early twentieth-century little magazines. These niche periodicals, in a cultural materialist sense, provide a useful entry point for the research, analysis, and recreation of the zeitgeist of what can be loosely termed ‘the Modernist movement.’ One area in which these magazines are particularly useful is in uncovering the genesis of modern or contemporary feminist thought. In some respects it can be argued that despite their small circulation figures and limited readership, magazines such as The Freewoman, The New Freewoman, and BLAST reveal a groundbreaking shift in, and towards the ‘Woman Question’. Women editors and writers such as Dora Marsden and Rebecca West, embraced new continental philosophies and aesthetics, and used them to deconstruct the concept of ‘Woman.’ Grasping the idea of individualism, Marsden challenged the essentialist language that controlled women through oppressive gender stereotypes. This thesis will map out the feminist topography that influenced and encouraged Dora Marsden in her quest for a more wholesale, psychological, female emancipation, as opposed to continuing the singular pursuit of the franchise. Through The Freewoman journals Marsden, and her protégée West, began to articulate new modes of feminism that challenged the grand narratives of Edwardian society and exposed the cultural and linguistic fault lines that created ‘woman’ as ‘the helpmeet’; a subordinate and commodified adjunct to man. Far from being outmoded or forgotten, Marsden’s ideas – particularly those concerned with language – have filtered their way into modern consciousness through feminist writers such as West, and at times prove prescient of the groundbreaking work of Simone de Beauvoir, Monique Wittig, Judith Butler, and Julia Kristeva. Complementing the stimulating research of Lucy Bland, Peter Brooker, Cary Franklin, Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Gillian Hanscombe, Sheila Jeffreys, Jane E. Marek, Maroula Joannou, Janet Lyons, Jean-Michele Rabaté, Robert Scholes, Andrew Thacker, Virginia L. Smyers, and Clifford Wulfman, this thesis will examine how Freewoman individualism helped shape the early fiction of Rebecca West and influenced the masculinist ethos of its contemporary little magazine, BLAST.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2024-05-19
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 19th May 2024
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