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Women, Writing, and the Industrial Revolution

Paperback
, 336 pages
ISBN:
9780801866494
January 2001
Subject:
Literature
$24.95

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Women, Writing, and the Industrial Revolution

Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

The industrial revolution in nineteenth-century England disrupted traditional ways of life. Condemning these transformations, the male writers who explored the brave new world of Victorian industrialism looked longingly to an idealized past. However, British women writers were not so pessimistic and some even foresaw the prospect of real improvement. As Susan Zlotnick argues in Women, Writing, and the Industrial Revolution, novelists Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë, Frances Trollope, and Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna were more willing to embrace industrialism than their male counterparts. While these women's responses to early industrialism differed widely, they imagined the industrial revolution and the modernity it heralded in ways unique to their gender. Zlotnick extends her analysis of the literature of the industrial revolution to the poetry and prose produced by working-class men and women. She examines the works of Chartist poets, dialect writers, and two "factory girl" poets who wrote about their experiences in the mills.

Susan Zlotnick is an associate professor of English at Vassar College.

" Women, Writing, and the Industrial Revolution provides us not only with a rigorous and persuasive reworking of some gender and class assumptions about nineteenth-century industrialism, but also with some vibrant and illuminating critical readings."

"[Zlotnick] forces us to rethink the whole issue of industrial capitalism and especially its effect on women in the workforce (including female novelists themselves, who benefited greatly from the expanded market for literature capitalism made possible). This is a far-reaching and original book that should be required reading for all students and scholars of 19th-century literature."

"A compelling new reading of an important facet of British cultural history, based on contrasting literary treatments of the effects of the industrial revolution by male and female writers."

"Distinguished by clarity of prose and quality of research... Contributing a new reading of the social problem genre in relation to gender, this study adds a crucial perspective through its emphasis on noncanonical and working-class writing."

"Susan Zlotnick's study is a highly readable contribution to what looks like being a revisionist (and distinctly feminist) phase in the academic project of 're-reading the industrial revolution'."