chapter  3
The subject of Woman and the subject of women's fiction
Pages 3

The sensation heroine, for example, cannot easily be accommodated either to the category of normal, proper femininity, nor to that of deviant, improper femininity. Sometimes, as in the case of Braddon's Aurora Floyd, or Ellen Wood's Isabel Carlyle, she might appear to be a combination of both versions of femininity, which are put into play by the complex machinery of the sensation plot. On other occasions an apparently, or actually, 'improper' heroine may be juxtaposed with the epitome of proper femininity in such a way as to redefine both categories. Lady Audley and Clara Talboys, Aurora Floyd and her cousin Lucy, Isabel Carlyle and Barbara Hare are all used in ~his way. In each of these cases, as the plot unfolds, the reader is continually required to rethink her conceptions of femininity and proper feminine behaviour. Similarly some of the New Woman writers continued to problematise and blur the boundaries between these two versions of femininity, while others tended to polarise them. George Egerton, for

example, appropriated and celebrated Drysdale's version of femininity as the type of the New Woman. Others, like Sarah Grand, reappropriated Acton's passionless woman, but put this definition of femininity to radical new uses.