Feminist Popular Fiction by Merja Makinen (auth.)

By Merja Makinen (auth.)

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Masculinity, defined as sexual and financial power, is overwhelmed by the woman’s emotional power, and so it is the heroine that triumphs. Although the essay largely ignores the fact that the patriarchal institutions remain intact its claim for a positive reading of romance is the opposite of Deborah Philips’, two years before in the same journal. Amal Treacher’s ‘What is Life Without My Love? Desire and Romantic Fiction’49 in a book dedicated to women and popular fiction, also argued that while not a radical intervention to phallocentric culture, an analysis of romance does offer insights into how women negotiate their fantasy lives within a patriarchal culture and begin to understand how we are gendered with contradictory and ambivalent desires.

5 Nevertheless, though successful, the erotic and the nefarious heroines were not typical of the majority of the genre during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. ’6 The beginning of the twentieth century brought a more worldly The Romance 25 fascination with aristocratic society, as in the works of Mrs Bailie Saunders and Frances Hodgson-Burnett. The romances lavished details on the milieu of tennis parties and grand balls and their plots hinged upon the more material concerns for reputation, dowries and inheritances.

The text stresses that the important thing is that the women should not be prevented from following their own choice. Frazer’s brief running of Concorp involves a ‘feminising’ of the workplace, breaking down the rigid hierarchical structures and addressing all the workforce on first-name terms. A change that the chauvinist rivals cannot encompass, while Emma and her supportive male secretary thrive. The text challenges the polarity of the work/ home divide, when Emma negotiates arrangements with the various young Conway children, indicating a re-evaluation of the skills of domesticity.

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