Library Dissertation Showcase

The forgotten women of modernism: revisionary feminism and the female academic voice

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2021

Modernist literature of the early twentieth century is demonstrative of the radical social changes occurring in terms of gender and education at the turn of the century. This independent study considers an intersection of both of these social factors in order to explore the emerging tradition of prominent women writers. Arguably, female modernist poets and writers have gone largely unrecognised within the broader modernist literary canon. Instead, their male contemporaries have taken precedence, despite similar, often derivative, stylistic forms. This study also explores whether women who do not identify as overtly feminist fail the female tradition in some way. Through the critical essays of Virginia Woolf, I explore the attitudes of female academics towards the wider movement of suffrage and female liberation, and the effect this change has on the authorial hierarchy.

Research for this study has shown that lesser-known poets such as Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) and Mina Loy have produced compelling contributions to the modernist literary tradition which have significantly reshaped the form of modern poetry. Additionally, the critical contributions of writers like Virginia Woolf have been overlooked and trivialised in favour of her fictional work, and biographical accounts of her life. The same treatment is not given to her male contemporaries Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, whose works are evaluated on their own value, not the biographical implications they provide.

The 1970s saw a revival of interest in modernist women following the second wave of feminism. There has since been a continued effort to reclaim lost female voices of modernism, both artistically and academically. This project has attempted to evaluate the contribution of female writers to the modernist canon, as well as to female equality within literary spaces. It is clear that there is still work to be done to establish a balance between the genders in terms of recognition and importance. However, by educating young people on both male and female influences on literature, we can begin to view art from beyond the gender binary and see its value as unique expressions of life.

PLEASE NOTE: You must be a member of the University of Lincoln to be able to view this dissertation. Please log in here.