British Women's Writing, 1930 to 1960

BookBritish Women's Writing, 1930 to 1960

British Women's Writing, 1930 to 1960

Between the Waves

Liverpool English Texts and Studies, 85


July 17th, 2020



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This volume contributes to the vibrant, ongoing recuperative work on women’s writing by shedding new light on a group of authors commonly dismissed as middlebrow in their concerns and conservative in their styles and politics. The neologism ‘interfeminism’ – coined to partner Kristin Bluemel’s ‘intermodernism’ – locates this group chronologically and ideologically between two ‘waves’ of feminism, whilst also forging connections between the political and cultural monoliths that have traditionally overshadowed them. Drawing attention to the strengths of this ‘out-of-category’ writing in its own right, this volume also highlights how intersecting discourses of gender, class and society in the interwar and postwar periods pave the way for the bold reassessments of female subjectivity that characterise second and third wave feminism.

The essays showcase the stylistic, cultural and political vitality of a substantial group of women authors of fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and journalism including Vera Brittain, Storm Jameson, Nancy Mitford, Phyllis Shand Allfrey, Rumer Godden, Attia Hosain, Doris Lessing, Kamala Markandaya, Susan Ertz, Marghanita Laski, Elizabeth Bowen, Edith Pargeter, Eileen Bigland, Nancy Spain, Vera Laughton Matthews, Pamela Hansford Johnson, Dorothy Whipple, Elizabeth Taylor, Daphne du Maurier, Barbara Comyns, Shelagh Delaney, Stevie Smith and Penelope Mortimer. Additional exploration of the popular magazines Woman’s Weekly and Good Housekeeping and new material from the Vera Brittain archive add an innovative dimension to original readings of the literature of a transformative period of British social and cultural history.

List of contributors: Natasha Periyan, Eleanor Reed, Maroula Joannou , Lola Serraf, Sue Kennedy, Ana Ashraf, Chris Hopkins, Gill Plain, Lucy Hall, Katherine Cooper, Nick Turner, Maria Elena Capitani, James Underwood, and Jane Thomas.

'This new collection of essays is a welcome addition to scholarship on twentieth-century women’s writing. [...] This is a recuperative project that insists on a dismissal of middlebrow from our critical lexicon in favour of an appreciation of ‘interfeminism’. Latent throughout are attempts to answer unspoken questions: did this period produce women’s writing that merits critical attention? And just how innovative was it? Where was its energy? Its revolt? Its exigency? Everywhere, this collection asserts, we just have to read it.'Lydia Fellgett, Women: A Cultural Review

Author Information

Sue Kennedy is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Arts at the University of Hull. Jane Thomas is Emeritus Professor of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Literature at the University of Hull, where she was also Director of the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
PART I : Visions of ‘This Island’, 1930–1960 29
1. Lower-middle-class Domestic Leisure in Woman’s Weekly, 193031
2. Pacifism, Fascism and the Crisis of Civilization: Vera Brittain, Storm Jameson and Nancy Mitford51
3. ‘Unsettled and Unsettling’ Women: Migrant Voices After the War67
PART II : Women Bearing Witness: The Temperature of War 85
4. ‘The Lure of Pleasure’: Sex and the Married Girl in Marghanita Laski’s To Bed with Grand Music (1946) 87
5. Supporting and Resisting the Myth of the Blitz: Ambiguity in Susan Ertz’s Anger in the Sky (1943)105
6. The Ambivalence of Testimony in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (1948)123
7. Re-presenting Wrens: Nancy Spain, Eileen Bigland, Vera Laughton Matthew and Edith Pargeter137
PART III: Women Writing Men: Interwar, War and Aftermath 157
8. ‘We Must Feed the Men’: Pamela Hansford Johnson and the Negotiation of Postwar Guilt159
9. Men of the House: Oppressive Husbands and Displaced Wives in Interwar, War and Postwar Fiction175
10. British Women Writing War: The Novels of Storm Jameson193
PART IV: New Realities for Women: A Forward Glance 209
11. Barbara Comyns and New Directions in Women’s Writing211
12. A New Reality: Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey (1958)229
13. Stevie Smith: Poetry and Personality 247
14. ‘Whoever She Was’: Penelope Mortimer, Beyond the Feminine Mystique 265