Middlebrow and Gender, 1890-1945


Scholars of the middlebrow have demonstrated that the preferences and choices of both women writers and women readers have suffered considerably from the dismissive attitude of earlier critics. George Eliot’s famous attack on ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists’ set the tone for the long tradition of gendered disputes over the literary merit of works of fiction – a controversy which eventually coalesced with a class-based hegemony of taste in the so-called Battle of the Brows.

The new research presented in this volume demonstrates that this gendered inflection of the critical debate is not only one-sided but tends to obfuscate the significance the middlebrow literary spectrum had for the wider dissemination of new concepts of gender. By exploring the scope of middlebrow media culture between 1890 and 1945, from household magazines to popular novels, the essays in this volume give evidence of the relative proximity that existed between middlebrow writers and the avant-garde in their concern for gender issues.

Contributors: Nicola Bishop, Elke D’hoker, Petra Dierkes-Thrun, Stephanie Eggermont, Christoph Ehland, Wendy Gan, Emma Grundy Haigh, Kate Macdonald, Louise McDonald, Tara MacDonald, Isobel Maddison, Ann Rea, Cornelia Wächter, Alice Wood

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Table of contents

Notes on Contributors

Introduction: “... all granite, fog and female fiction”
Christoph Ehland and Cornelia Wächter

Part I: Contact Zones

The Short Fiction of New Woman Writers in Avant- Garde, Mainstream, and Popular Periodicals of the Fin de Siècle
Stephanie Eggermont and Elke D’hoker

Modernism and the Middlebrow in British Women’s Magazines, 1916-1930
Alice Wood

Gender, Disability, Wartime: The Woman’s Body and the Disabled Ex-Serviceman in the First World War
Kate Macdonald

Complementary Cousins: Constructing the Maternal in the Writing of Elizabeth von Arnim and Katherine Mansfield
Isobel Maddison

Part II: Heroics of the Everyday

Middlebrow “Everyman” or Modernist Figurehead? Experiencing Modernity through the Eyes of the Humble Clerk
Nicola Bishop

“The Heroine of a Modern Sea Epic”: The New Woman Adventuress in Grant Allen’s The Type-Writer Girl
Tara MacDonald

The Adventures of the Lady Typist: Redefining the Heroic in Early Twentieth-Century Women’s Spy Fiction
Emma Grundy Haigh

Part III: Gender, Sexuality, and the Management of Anxiety

Clemence Dane’s Fantastical Fiction and Feminist Consciousness
Louise McDonald

The Painted Veil: Re-Inventing the Colonial Woman and the Hinterland Narrative
Wendy Gan

Victoria Cross’ Six Chapters of a Man’s Life: Queering Middlebrow Feminism
Petra Dierkes-Thrun

Middlebrow Negotiations of Lawrentian Sexuality in Una Silberrad’s Desire
Cornelia Wächter

“Ordinary” Sexuality, the “Dirty Little Secret” and the Indecent Highbrow Modernist: Sexuality in Married Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Ann Rea



Academic libraries, academics interested in the middlebrow, periodicals studies, the New Woman, the short story, the clerk, queering popular culture, spy fiction, the First World War, disability, colonial popular culture.