New Woman: new writing
The 1880s and 1890s were a significant 'moment of change in fiction' (Boumelha 1982:93). It was a period of great experimentation in fictional practice, and of acrimonious debate about the appropriate form and content of fiction. Following the 1870 Education Act, which produced a larger and more socially differentiated constituency for the novel, there was a significant increase in the number of outlets for fiction. The role of the circulating libraries was greatly diminished, removing one powerful pressure for formal conformity and decorous subject-matter. Both the fiction market and the novel itself became more stratified into the commodified medium of mass entertainment and instruction, and the increasingly fetishised aesthetic object of an intellectual high culture.