1st Edition

Clemence Dane Forgotten Feminist Writer of the Inter-War Years

By Louise McDonald Copyright 2021
    276 Pages
    by Routledge

    276 Pages
    by Routledge

    This feminist investigation of the works of Clemence Dane joins the growing body of research into the relationship of female-authored texts to the ideology and cultural hegemony of the Edwardian and inter-war period. An amalgam of single-author study and thematic period analysis, through sustained cultural engagement, this book explores Dane’s journalism, drama and fiction to interrogate a range of issues: inter-war women’s writing, the Middlebrow, feminism, (homo) sexuality, liberal politics, domesticity, and concepts of the spinster. It examines form and a range of fictional genres: drama, bildungsroman, detective fiction, historical saga and gothic fiction. It relates back to the genre writing of comparable authors. These include Rosamond Lehmann, Vita Sackville-West, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Dorothy Strachey, Dodie Smith, Rachel Ferguson, May Sinclair, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Daphne Du Maurier, G.B.Stern, and detective writers: Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Gladys Mitchell, Marjorie Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Offering a picture of an era, focalised through Dane and contextualised through her journalism and the work of her female peers, it argues that Dane is often markedly more radically feminist than these contemporaries. She engages with broad issues of social justice irrespective of gender and her humanity is demonstrated through her sympathetic representations of marginalised characters of both sexes. However, she most specifically evidences a gender politics consistent with the fragmented and multifarious essentialist feminism that emerged following the Great War, which esteemed ‘womanly’ qualities of care and mothering but simultaneously valued female autonomy, single status and professionalism. Adopting the critical paradigms of domestic modernism and women‘s liminality, the book will particularly focus on the trajectories of Dane’s extraordinary modern heroines, who possess qualities of altruism, candour, integrity, imagination, intuition, resilience and rebelliousness. Over the course of her work, these fictional women increasingly challenge oppressive normative forms of domesticity, traversing physical thresholds to create alternative domesticities in self-defining living and working spaces.


    Chapter 1: Clemence Dane and the inter-war political, cultural and literary context

    Modernism and the Middlebrow

    Feminist consciousness

    Social ills and liberal solutions


    Chapter 2: women’s themes in inter-war drama

    Women in the modern world

    Contesting masculine abuses in plays about the past

    Interpreting literary history


    Chapter 3: Imperilled identities and submerged sexualities: romantic pathology in the coming-of-age novel 1917-1927

    Lesbian loss: the amor impossibilia

    Romantic yearning in heterosexual contexts


    Chapter 4: Domestic choices: companionate marriage or living as a seule dame. Rejecting romance in gothic and saga writing 1924 – 1938

    Fantastical fiction and female visionary experience

    Family chronicles: women’s journeys from domestication to professionalism


    Chapter 5: Subverting the models of golden-age detective fiction

    Detectives, villainy and masculinities

    Investigative women

    Foregrounding the woman’s plot




    Louise McDonald received her PH.D. in English on the topic of the writings of Clemence Dane at the University of Leicester. She is currently senior lecturer in English at Newman University. Her publications include: 'Clemence Dane's Fantastical Fiction and Feminist Consciousness' in Ehland, Christoph and Wachter, Cornelia (2016) Middlebrow and Gender 1980-1945 (Brill Rodopi), ‘Softening Svengali:  Film Transformations of Trilby and Cultural Change’ in Cooke, Simon and Goldman, Paul (eds.) (2016) George du Maurier: Illustrator, Author, Critic London: Ashgate and ‘From Victorian to Postmodern Negation: Enlightenment Culture in Thackeray’s and Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon’ in Bloom, Abigail Burnham and Pollock, Mary Sanders (2011) Victorian Literature and Film Adaptation, New York: Cambria Press, She has also contributed articles on Clemence Dane and her work to The Literary Encyclopedia, Volume, Baldick, Chris and Childs, Peter (eds.) (2017) English Writing and Culture of the early Twentieth Century, 1945-present.