Restoring Dora Marsden

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Michael Wutz reviews Bruce Clarke’s Dora Marsden and Early Modernism: Gender, Individualism, Science

Dora Marsden was not a madwoman in the attic. When she and her female compatriots climbed down from the attic of the Southport Empire theater on 3 December 1909 to disrupt a public appearance by Winston Churchill, she did so as a freewoman agitating for universal suffrage and gender equality. Soon she was to edit a short-lived journal by the same name, the Freewoman, to be renamed and reconceived as the New Freewoman and, eventually, the Egoist - three journals that were to have a formative impact on the literary and artistic configuration of modernism. Bruce Clarke retraces Marsden’s wide-ranging but hitherto largely unacknowledged influence on her modernist contemporaries and, in the spirit of revisionary literary and cultural criticism, seeks to correct “a tradition of misinformation” (4) that has led to a monolithic and largely masculinist construction of modern literature.

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Reacting productively to Marsden’s theories, Williams -no less than Lawrence - sought to repress his own conflicted gender identity and to establish a sexual circuit that reduces the female element to a catalytic complement for the engendering force of the male.

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