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The Edinburgh Companion to Fin de Siècle Literature, Culture and the Arts$
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Josephine M. Guy

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474408912

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474408912.001.0001

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American Nervousness: Motherhood and ‘The Mental Activity of Women’ in the Era of Sexual Anarchy

American Nervousness: Motherhood and ‘The Mental Activity of Women’ in the Era of Sexual Anarchy

Chapter:
(p.361) 19 American Nervousness: Motherhood and ‘The Mental Activity of Women’ in the Era of Sexual Anarchy
Source:
The Edinburgh Companion to Fin de Siècle Literature, Culture and the Arts
Author(s):

Emily Coit

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474408912.003.0020

This chapter revisits a site of foundational feminist scholarship to ask new questions about gender, class, race, health and motherhood. Examining two iconic fin-de-siècle female writers, Edith Wharton and Charlotte Gilman, it highlights an age-old tension in their work, articulated via contemporary eugenics, between the portrayal of the female body and that of the female intellect. It shows that both writers held antiquated views about female agency that sit uncomfortably with their common association with feminism and modernity.

Keywords:   Female writers, Gender, Class, Race, Eugenics, Motherhood

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