chapter  8
4 Pages

Conclusion: The Legacy of Modernism

Throughout the twentieth century, the elevated status of modernism and its implicit or explicit gendering as male, have prevented poets from identifying themselves as women, from associating themselves with one another and from establishing a separate tradition. In the introduction to their anthology of Victorian women's poetry (1995), Angela Leighton and Margaret Reynolds hold modernism responsible for the disappearance of most of the poets in Elizabeth Sharp's anthology Women s Voices ( 1887). As they point out, the impulse ofliterary women was to deny, not to recover, a female lineage: 'partly because of the experiments of modernism, partly because of a new feminist sensibility, partly because of a critical value placed on the dry, intellectual, the dispassionate, early twentieth-century writers, readers and critics, were embarrassed by their Victorian grandmothers'. 1 I have not, however, intended to endorse the concept that nineteenth-century writers like Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Barrett Browning espoused the feminine ideal. Revisionary criticism 'has unlocked their resistance to the tropes of feminised sentimentality. Instead, I have suggested that early twentieth-century suffragism, the First World War and new legislation concerning women's rights changed women's consciousness and provided them with unprecedented opportunities. Women poets became a significant public presence. Their publishing initiatives and literary criticism were part of their new autonomy which was often threatening to a patriarchal literary establishment and perplexing to their male colleagues. Individually, however, they often invited respect. I arranged the chapters loosely chronologically but there is no tidy historical progression. In 1915, Anna Wickham was more overtly feminist and stylistically versatile than Frances Cornford in 1934.