chapter  1
8 Pages

Gender and writing, writing and gender

As many feminist literary historians have pointed out,2 the construction of this canon has involved the filtering out of a great deal of writing, including virtually all of the fiction produced by women. Clearly women writers were extremely active in the production of fiction throughout the nineteenth century, and they certainly played a very important part in two particularly fiercely debated developments: the sensation novel of the 1860s and the fiction variously described as the 'Fiction of Sex', the 'New Fiction', or the 'New Woman Fiction' of the 1890s. The women's sensation novel and the New

Woman fiction were two of the most prominent examples of a perceived invasion of fiction by the feminine which was a major talking-point in the press throughout the Victorian period. The shocking, unconventional heroines of the women sensation writers, such as' Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Ellen Wood, Rhoda Broughton and 'Ouida' (Marie Louise de la Ramee), and the daring or neurotic fictional New Women and their female creators, who included Sarah Grand, Mona Caird, Menie Muriel Dowie, Netta Syrrett and George Egerton, were among the most widely discussed and hotly contested aspects of this 'irruption of the feminine' (Boumelha 1982:79) into fiction and the culture at large

This study aims to explore the nature of this irruption of the feminine, and its contemporary cultural significance, as well as to suggest something of its continuing interest and importance for both present-day feminists and students of nineteenth-century literature and culture. Although the cultural phenomenon denoted by the phrase 'irruption of the feminine' is not exclusively the domain of female writers, 3 my own concern will be with women's writing, and with the discursive and material conditions in which it was produced and mediated.