Feeling “The High-voltage Current of the General Pass”: Experiments in Subjectivity in British Women’s Fiction in the Wake of World War II

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Abstract

This chapter focuses on a selection of formally innovative novels written by British women writers during or immediately following World War II, aiming to contribute to recent work concerned with nuancing accounts of mid-twentieth century literature. Focusing in particular on the differing ways in which women authors negotiated the tension between the particular and the general in their works, this chapter puts forward a reading of experimental women’s fiction in the wake of the war as a counter example to Cyril Connolly’s assertion in 1947 that “such a thing as avant-garde has ceased to exist”. Drawing on works ranging from Storm Jameson’s The Journal of Mary Hervey Russell (1945), Anna Kavan’s Sleep Has His House (1947/48) to Stevie Smith’s The Holiday (1949) and Rosamond Lehmann’s The Echoing Grove (1953), it argues that these novels, rather than constituting a morally suspect solipsism as some reviews suggested, are concerned with exploring interrelationships between external forces of society and internal states of mind.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Experimental Women’s Fiction, 1945-1975: “Slipping through the Labels”
EditorsHannah Van Hove, Andrew Radford
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Chapter2
Pages41-60
ISBN (Electronic)9783030727666
ISBN (Print)9783030727659
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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