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Vol. V1II (Winter 2016/17)
Another busy year has passed, but the world’s distractions, disturbances, and disruptions have not hindered The Latchkey’s committed editors and publisher from producing an issue that proves the continued richness in New Woman studies. In a new page, About the Journal, Sharon Bickle chronicles our history and achievements with graceful concision. We are confident that this, our current issue, reflects the intellectual and scholarly vitality established more than eight years ago with that first issue of The Latchkey.
The original articles we feature in this issue do much to advance the critical heritage on George Egerton and Rachilde, respectively. Their works are set within the period’s medical and sociological discourses about women’s bodies and sexuality, and the articles explore their challenges to notions about the maternal or the artistic impulse.
In her article, “‘My life has been a hell, mother’: Victimisation and Abortion in George Egerton’s ‘Virgin Soil’ and ‘The Regeneration of Two’,” Emma Burris-Janssen performs a striking re-reading of two short stories from Discords and Keynotes, arguing convincingly that both stories contain characterisations of aborting female bodies, and that abortion can be read as a symbol and critique of female oppression under masculine hegemony. Burris-Janssen begins with Sally Ledger’s argument that maternity in Egerton’s writings does not simply reflect a biological essentialism, but identifies a tension between this and sexual desire liberated from reproductive compulsion. In exploring this tension, Burris-Janssen finds in “Virgin Soul” a protagonist whose coded references to abortion redefine the responsibility of mother to daughter, and function as resistance to the effects of marital abuse. Burris-Janssen then explores the popular understanding of white lead as an abortificant and the way in which Egerton uses this imagery to depict the oppressed female body as an aborting body, and sets up a contrast with a natural, rural, and utopic maternity.
Claiming French author Rachilde to be “the first celebrated female decadent,” Elizabeth McCormick’s article “A tiger decked out as an Amazon”: Hysteria, Primitive Violence, and Creativity in Monsieur Vénus, examines a particularly female artistic agency that simultaneously incorporates and interrogates the period’s narrative conventions and medical discourses about women’s hysteria and sexuality that pathologised each into the fearful and the perverse. A scandal on its first publication in 1884, Monsieur Vénus was influential in challenging concepts about female and also male creativity and gender. As McCormick demonstrates, Monsieur Vénus’s provocative tropes, themes, and narrative became significant material for Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and the Symbolist novelist and poet, Jules Lorrain. Lavish textual evidence illustrates the intoxicating power in Rachilde’s voluptuous prose. McCormick draws on queer theory in explicating the book’s focus on gender fluidity and self-transformation. Monsieur Vénus, she concludes, is a critical text since it “reveals a unique decadent female philosophy of creativity, as revolutionary today as it was in the 1880s.”
Thanks to the keen insight and skillful management of Kirsty Bunting, this issue’s book reviews expand and enlarge the New Woman idea in especially gratifying, not to say exciting, ways.
Emelyne Godfrey responds to the recent interest in Richard Marsh by comparing two new volumes of his The Complete Adventures of Judith Lee, offering an interesting insight into late nineteenth century “lady detective” writing.
Lena Wånggren reviews Katherine Mullin’s 2016 Working Girls: Fiction, Sexuality, and Modernity, which presents the world of women’s work and its representations in fiction as a “rival” to the more frequently studied New Woman figure and her ideology.
Valerie Fehlbaum appraises a recent Victorian Secrets edition of Emma Frances Brooke’s A Superfluous Woman,situating this work within “that annus mirabilis of New Woman fiction, 1894,” finding the book “useful for anyone interested in the New Woman phenomenon and fin-de-siècle debates in general, and in the context of Brooke’s own prolific career.”
Laura Ludtke reviews Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, which due to its popular success and radio serialisation (BBC 4) in 2016, has bridged the gap between academic and general audiences and charted the development and expression of urban “personal topographies” from female perspectives.
Our Featured New Women column brings into focus two from the world of fine arts and crafts, each beginning to receive more particular and stringent scholarly consideration than they have in the past. Janine Hatter explains Clemence Annie Housman’s place as a late-century engraver, illustrator and author. Sister to poet A.E. Housman and the novelist and playwright Laurence, Housman co-founded the Suffrage Atelier in 1909, designed banners for the suffrage cause, and, in 1911, in protest about women’s right to the vote, was arrested for non-payment of taxes. The American painter Cecilia Beaux, although less visible and vocal in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century feminism, turned her talents with the brush to immortalizing women activists, educators, and social reformists in her many portraits. Hayley McGuirk’s biography traces Beaux’s training and artistic education, highlights Beaux’s place in nineteenth-century society painting’s conventions, and lauds Beaux’s abilities to break gender barriers as the first female juror for the Carnegie Institute in 1897 and the Paris 1900 Exposition Universelle.
Do check out our Conference News which includes among its list of societies and upcoming events a CFP for an exciting special edition of the Victorian Journal of Culture and Literature entitled “Women of the Press in the 1890s.”
Readers might recall that in 2013, with Issue IV, The Latchkey formally announced its intention to using Modern Language Association (MLA) style and U.S./American spellings rather than U.K./British. Since then, we have enjoyed – and employed – a rather hybrid style, bending our own rules, but never in a spirit of caprice or nonchalance. Moving on, however, we are determined to stick with our 2013 style requirements. Future contributors should take some time to review the newly reposted submission parameters found in the document entitled “The Latchkey Submission and Style Guidelines.”
As always, we extend our many thanks to all our contributors for their patience. We wish, in particular, to applaud and to acknowledge the hard work, valuable feedback, and great good humor of our webmaster and publisher Steven Halliwell and The Rivendale Press who make The Latchkey possible.
The Latchkey continues to solicit essays, book reviews, and brief biographical sketches of New Women writers and cultural figures throughout the year. We particularly encourage Early Career Researchers and Postgraduates to contribute their work to the journal. We are also happy to announce your conferences, calls for papers, and publications of interest free of charge. Feel free to browse our website and submission guidelines, and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in sending in an item for any of our sections.
With best wishes,
Joellen Masters and Sharon Bickle, Co-Editors
Kirsty Bunting, Book Reviews Editor
Table of Contents:
- Emma Burris-Janssen, “My life has been a hell, mother”: Victimisation and Abortion in George Egerton’s “Virgin Soil” and “The Regeneration of Two”
- Elizabeth McCormick, “A tiger decked out as an Amazon”: Hysteria, Primitive Violence, and Creativity in Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus
- Richard Marsh, The Complete Adventures of Judith Lee. Intro. Jean-Daniel Brèque.Tarzana, CA: Black Coat Press/Hollywood Comics.com, 2012.
- ---, The Complete Adventures of Judith Lee. Ed. Minna Vuohelainen. Richmond, VA: Valancourt Books, 2016. Reviewed by Emelyne Godfrey.
- Katherine Mullin, Working Girls: Fiction, Sexuality, and Modernity. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. Reviewed by Lena Wånggren.
- Emma Frances Brooke, A Superfluous Woman. Ed. Barbara Tilley. Brighton, UK: Victorian Secrets, 2015. Reviewed by Valerie Fehlbaum.
- Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London. London: Chatto & Windus, 2016. Reviewed by Laura Ludtke.
Featured New Women
- Clemence Annie Housman by Janine Hatter
- Cecilia Beaux by Hayley McGuirk