Beth Caldwell's Reading Experience
Near the end of the nineteenth century, Sarah Grand coined the phrase "New Woman," which was influential throughout the first wave of the feminist movement. This paper examines how Sarah Grand's representation of Beth Caldwell's reading habits in her novel The Beth Book acts as a metaphor for the subversive femininity of the New Woman. My project explores the ways in which Grand's feminist ideals are reflected in The Beth Book through the scenes when Beth is reading. I suggest that Beth's atypical engagement with books as textual and physical objects can be equated to social dissent. However, Grand also portrays Beth reading within educational and marital institutions. These experiences lead Beth's engagement with the text to become similar to common nineteenth-century reading practices. I conclude with the argument that Grand represents any personal engagement with a book, even if it is not especially radical, as capable of re-evaluating systemically-enforced interpretations.
Copyright (c) 2020 Shelby Elizabeth Haber
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Spectrum encourages authors to publish their work under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence (CC BY 4.0) that allows others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as they credit the Author(s) for the original creation. Authors may, however, choose to have their work distributed under any of the Creative Commons licenses currently available by specifying their preferred licence in the publication agreement. The applicable Creative Commons license icon will appear on the title page of each published submission. A description of the Creative Commons licences is available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/