Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development

Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development

by Susan Fraiman
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Is there a "female Bildungsroman"? Can the story of Elizabeth Bennet's development be yoked to a genre conceived in terms of Wilhelm Meister and David Copperfield? Unbecoming Women unpacks the ideological baggage of the Bildungsroman, and turns to novels of development and conduct books by women for a new poetics of growing up. In subtle readings of works by Frances… See more details below

Overview

Is there a "female Bildungsroman"? Can the story of Elizabeth Bennet's development be yoked to a genre conceived in terms of Wilhelm Meister and David Copperfield? Unbecoming Women unpacks the ideological baggage of the Bildungsroman, and turns to novels of development and conduct books by women for a new poetics of growing up. In subtle readings of works by Frances Burney, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and George Elliot, Susan Fraiman argues that a heroine's progress toward masterful selfhood is by no means assured. Focusing on "counternarratives" in which girls do not enter the world so much as flounder on its doorstep, Fraiman suggests that becoming a woman involves de-formation, disorientation, and the loss of authority. By stressing the rival stories in a single text, Unbecoming Women provides a fresh assessment of the Bildungsroman. Instead of the usual question - "How does the hero of this novel come of age?" - Fraiman asks "What are the divergent developmental narratives at work, and what can they tell us about competing ideologies concerning the feminine?" Written with grace and theoretical mastery, Unbecoming Women emphasizes the subversive as well as dialectical aspects of a genre long considered homogeneous. The result is a compelling work of literary criticism that, charting female destiny in Georgian and Victorian texts, also post-modernizes the novel of development.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Yes, there are bildungsromans--novels of development-- about women, says Fraiman (English, U. of Virginia), but they have not been recognized as part of the genre because they describe a coming-of-age process very different from that experienced by men: rather than setting out on life's road, they begin the widening spiral of competence and the continual renegotiation of divergent paths. She discusses novels by Frances Burney, Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, and George Eliot. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231080002
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
01/01/1992
Series:
Gender and Culture Series
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.29(h) x (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >