Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Guest Post by Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Twelve: More From The Nineteenth Century

Echidne's note: Earlier parts of this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 ,Part 5, Part 6, Part 7,Part 8, Part 9, Part 10 and Part 11

Mary Shelley (née Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin; 30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was a British novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley.

One summer, while sitting around a log fire at Lord Byron's villa with friends and reading German ghost stories, Byron suggested they each write their own supernatural tale. Shortly afterwards, in a waking dream, Mary Godwin conceived the idea for Frankenstein: “I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.” She began writing what she assumed would be a short story. With Percy Shelley's encouragement, she expanded this tale into her first novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818. She later described that summer in Switzerland as the moment "when I first stepped out from childhood into life".

Frankenstein is considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction, and science fiction author Brian Aldiss has argued that it should be considered the first true science fiction story, because unlike in previous stories with fantastical elements resembling those of later science fiction, the central character "makes a deliberate decision" and "turns to modern experiments in the laboratory" to achieve fantastic results. The story is partially based on Giovanni Aldini's electrical experiments on dead and (sometimes) living animals and was also a warning against the expansion of modern humans in the Industrial Revolution, alluded to in its subtitle, The Modern Prometheus.

It has had a considerable influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films. Frankenstein is actually the name of the scientist and not the monster in the novel. Shelley’s works are widely available in English.

Fredrika Bremer (17 August 1801 - 31 December 1865) was a Swedish writer and a feminist activist. She had a large influence on social development in Sweden, especially in feminist issues.

In 1828, she debuted as a writer, anonymously, with a series of novels published until 1831, and was soon followed by others. Her novels were romantic stories of the time and concentrated on women in the marriage market; either beautiful and superficial, or unattractive with no hope of joining it, and the person telling the story and observing them is often an independent woman.

Her novel Hertha (1856) remains her most influential work. It is a dark novel about the lack of freedom for women, and it raised a debate in the parliament called "The Hertha debate", which contributed to the new law of legal majority for adult unmarried women in Sweden in 1858, and was somewhat of a starting point for the real feminist movement in Sweden. Hertha also raised the debate of higher formal education for women, and in 1861, the University for Women Teachers (Högre lärarinneseminariet), was founded by the state after the suggested woman university in Hertha. In 1859, Sophie Adlersparre founded the paper Tidskrift för hemmet inspired by the novel.

Some of her works are available (some in English and some in Finnish) at this website: and her complete novels are available in English in the book “The Novels of Frederika Bremer. 11 Vols. [In 12 Pt.],” by Fredrika Bremer.

Amantine (also "Amandine") Lucile Aurore Dupin, later Baroness (French: baronne) Dudevant (Paris, 1 July 1804 – 8 June 1876), best known by her pseudonym George Sand, was a French novelist and memoirist.

Her most widely used quote is "There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved." Indeed, her romance with the the writer Jules Sandeau began her literary career; they published a few stories in collaboration, signing them "Jules Sand." Her first published novel, Rose et Blanche (1831), was written in collaboration with Sandeau.

For her first independent novel, Indiana (1832), she used the pen name that made her famous – George Sand. Drawing from her childhood experiences of the countryside, she wrote the rural novels La Mare au Diable (1846), François le Champi (1847–1848), La Petite Fadette (1849), and Les Beaux Messieurs Bois-Doré (1857). A Winter in Majorca described the period that she spent on that island in 1838-9. Her other novels include Indiana (1832), Lélia (1833), Mauprat (1837), Le Compagnon du Tour de France (1840), Consuelo (1842–1843), and Le Meunier d'Angibault (1845). Further theatre pieces and autobiographical pieces include Histoire de ma vie (1855), Elle et Lui (1859) (about her affair with Musset), Journal Intime (posthumously published in 1926), and Correspondence.

Sand often performed her theatrical works in her small private theatre at the Nohant estate.In addition, Sand authored literary criticism and political texts. She wrote many essays and published works establishing her socialist position. Because of her early life, she sided with the poor and working class, as well as supporting women’s rights, and she started her own newspaper which was published in a workers' co-operative. This allowed her to publish more political essays. She wrote "I cannot believe in any republic that starts a revolution by killing its own proletariat." Her works are widely available in English.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime.

She was educated at home and attended lessons with her brothers' tutor. She writes that at six she was reading novels, and at eight she was entranced by Pope's translations of Homer; at ten she was studying Greek and writing her own Homeric epic The Battle of Marathon. Her parents encouraged her work, and she has one of the largest collections of juvenilia of any English writer.

By 1821 she had read Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), and she became a passionate supporter of Wollstonecraft's ideas, particularly since she could not go to school as her brothers did despite her own brilliance. Between 1841-4 Barrett Browning was prolific in poetry, translation and prose. Her poem "The Cry of the Children", published in 1842 in Blackwoods, condemned child labor and helped bring about child labor reforms by rousing support for Lord Shaftesbury's Ten Hours Bill (1844).

Her 1844 volume Poems made her one of the most popular writers in the country at the time and inspired Robert Browning to write to her, telling her how much he loved her work. She grew to love Robert and eventually married him; her father then disinherited her, as he did each of his children who married. Her brothers considered Robert a lower class gold-digger and refused to see him. However, Elizabeth had some money of her own, and the couple were reasonably comfortable in Italy.

Her most famous work, Sonnets From the Portugese, largely chronicles the period leading up to her 1846 marriage to Robert Browning. The collection was acclaimed and popular even in the poet's lifetime and it remains so today; it contains the famous poem begins “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

She also published Aurora Leigh, an epic poem about a female writer making her way in life, balancing work and love. The writings depicted in this novel are based on similar, personal experiences that Elizabeth suffered through herself. Her works are widely available in English.

Mary Anne (Mary Ann, Marian) Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880), better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.

She is the author of seven novels, including Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876), most of them set in provincial England and well known for their realism and psychological insight.

Evans set out a manifesto for herself in one of her essays, "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists” (1856), which criticized the trivial and ridiculous plots of contemporary fiction by women. The philosopher and critic George Henry Lewes met Evans in 1851, and by 1854 they had decided to live together. Lewes was married to Agnes Jervis, but they had agreed to have an open marriage; notably, it was not the fact that he had an affair but the fact that he was not ashamed of his “mistress” and his wife had agreed to the arrangement that so shocked Victorian society. It was not until 1877, when Lewes and Evans were introduced to Princess Louise, that they were fully accepted by society.