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Revolting Men?

Sexual Fears and Fantasies in Writings by Old Men, 1880–1910

Ann Heilmann

‘Being a man,’ Norman Mailer once wrote, ‘is the continuing battle of one ’s life … [One] can hardly ever assume [one] has become a man’. At the turn of the nineteenth century, it was the unbecoming (collapse) of (English) manhood which was foremost in the minds of many male writers. The growing sense of a masculine collective self in crisis can be placed in direct correlation with the advances of the British women’s movement and its destabilization of patriarchal hegemonies. This article examines the way in which, in their endeavour to exorcize the threat of female cultural and sociopolitical agency, anti-feminist male writers pressed New Woman fiction into service as a medium for conservative propaganda. I shall be considering two textual configurations of the turn-of-the-century masculinity complex and its articulations of dread and desire, dystopia and the male free-love plot. Sexual fantasies of women’s reconfinement within the boundaries of male desire, these texts served to defuse, depoliticize and (hetero)sexualize the political and moral/social purist agendas of feminist activists and writers by transforming the New Woman – the agent of feminist rebellion in women’s fiction – into a Sexy Angel in the House.

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Introduction

A Past of Her Own – History and the Modernist Woman Writer

Mark Llewellyn and Ann Heilmann

The articles collected in this special issue were originally all delivered as papers at the ‘Hystorical Fictions: Women, History and Authorship’ conference we organised at the University of Wales, Swansea, in August 2003. When we began planning the event – writing the call for papers; contacting academics we thought might be interested in attending – we anticipated that, given the recent prominence of ‘historical fiction’ by authors such as A. S. Byatt, Tracy Chevalier, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson and others, a large number of speakers would want to focus on contemporary women writers’ uses of history. What proved most interesting, however, was the way in which this trend of, to use Adrienne Rich’s term, feminist ‘re-visioning’,1 viewed by so many critics and readers as part of a postmodern literary culture, has its roots in the modernism of the early twentieth century.

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Heike Bauer, Ann Heilmann, Emma Liggins, Angelica Michelis, Nickianne Moody and Chris White

Notes on contributors

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Abby Bardi, Sophie Blanch, Sarah Dillon, Jane de Gay, Ann Heilmann, Angela Hubler, Mark Llewellyn, Patricia Pulham, Leigh Wilson and Alison Winch

Notes on contributors