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Voices from the garden: aspects of women's poetry 1910–1939

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posted on 14.01.2021, 09:21 by Ann Hardwick
This study is offered as a contribution to a neglected area of British literary history - women's poetry written between 1910 and 1939. it is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of these decades, but, rather, enquires into the period from specific points of view. It is centred on the work of two individuaLs, Charlotte Mew and SyLvia Townsend Warner, and on a distinctive genre, women's poetry written in response to the First World War. In Linking these issues I have used the thread which stitches together so many studies of women's poetry, the question of a woman poet's sense of authority, the means whereby she establishes her poetic identity in relation to a literary tradition which has assumed the poet to be male. I examine one element among the forces which shape this sense of authority, the critical context within which a woman's work is written and received. Two chapters compare the critical climate around 1911 with that in the 1920's in order to discern whether or not there was any slackening in the constraints which a masculinist criticaL tradition placed upon the woman poet. By surveying previously unconsuLted sources, I demonstrate the extent to which contemporary criticism continued to poSition women in a particular and circumscribed relationshi p to poetry that had its roots in Victorian ideologies of "womanliness". By drawing on material from articles, prefaces, anthologies and reviews I reconstruct a typology of the "woman poet" and show this to be perceived as a category of Limitation throughout the period. The work of Charlotte Mew and Sylvia Townsend Warner are considered against this background. Mew, whose most creative period spans the years just before the First World War, has received little critical attention. Her very Limited participation in modernism is paralleLed by Sylvia Townsend Warner, a younger poet, who, in working with pastoral themes and established forms broadly classified as "Neo Georgian" is representative of many British women poets coming to maturity in the 1920's. The chapter on women's war poetry develops an argument that the dominant conservative aesthetic which privileged a conventional "womanliness" intersects with a war time intensification of Edwardian conceptions of poetry's social roLe. This, I argue, served to repress a more imaginative and subversive response to the War in much women's poetry.



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • English and Drama


Loughborough University of Technology

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© Ann Hardwick

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University of Technology.

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Ron Chan ; Gabrielle Griffin ; Bill Overton

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