chapter  18
13 Pages

Woman's 'affectability' and the literature of hysteria

The rhetoric of feminists, anti-feminists, misogynists and the proponents of the womanly woman coincided in its identification of woman with feeling. This equation of feeling and the feminine should hardly be surprising to readers of the novel, since throughout the nineteenth century (and, arguably, from its inception), the novel was preoccupied with women and feeling. Indeed it could be argued that the novel has always tended to represent woman as feeling. The fiction of the 1890s, whether written by men or by women, was both produced by and engaged with a complex and contradictory discourse on woman's supposedly affective nature, a discourse which, by equating woman with feeling, assigned her either to the domain of the irrational, or to that of the supra-rational.