Beth Caldwell's Reading Experience


  • Shelby Elizabeth Haber University of Alberta



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.






Social Sciences & Humanities