History Literature

Feminist Novelists of the Belle Epoque: Love as a Lifestyle

Feminist Novelists of the
Belle Epoque: Love as a
Jennifer Waelti-WaltersIndiana University Press1990

Feminist Novelists of the Belle Epoque presents a generation of women writers critical of love and marriage – the central tenets of their culture and society. Jennifer Waelti-Walters has recovered a group of women novelists who challenged the accepted nineteenth-century views of women. These novelists of the Belle-Epoque view women as human beings struggling to survive against great odds, seeking to fulfill simple needs which sound eerily familiar almost a century later – the freedom to work, the freedom to love, and basic equality with men.

Whether self-declared feminists or not, all the novelists discussed expose aspects of women’s oppression. Most of them seem conscious of the implications of their material. Some lecture, some analyse, some prefer subversive description, and a few of them seem to have unconsciously created critical structures. Whatever their strategy, they have something important to say about human experience from a female perspective. They bear witness to the struggles and aspirations of their age, to the gradual emergence from the nineteenth-century bourgeois ideal of feminine submissiveness into a sense of female autonomy.

Table of Contents

1. Away from the Bourgeois Hotel
2. Men and the Issues
3. Love and the Choices I: Marcelle Tinayre
4. Maternity: The Pitfalls and the Pleasures
5. Daughterhood: Creation and Destruction
6. Profession: Struggles and Solitude
7. Marriage: Traditional and Ideal
8. Love and the Choices II: Colette
9. Perversion and Social Criticism
10. Toward the Concept of a New Woman