Title: Piecing together a gray patchwork
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Title: Piecing together a gray patchwork the formation of feminine identity in George Egerton's Keynotes and Discords
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Hager, Lisa
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Gainesville, Fla
Publication Date: 2001
Copyright Date: 2001
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Subject: English thesis, M.A   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
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Summary: ABSTRACT: The publication of George Egerton's Keynotes (1893) and Discords (1894) caused quite a stir among the Victorian reading public and literary critics. In these two volumes of short stories, Egerton pushed the limits of English sensibilities with her frank treatment of women's sensuality and sexuality, and her critics responded strongly to both the subject and style of this cultural boundary crossing. Egerton's fiction is intertwined with a notion of mixing the unmixable--literally turning life upside down. Hence the scandalousness of Egerton's fiction comes not only from her explicit discussion of women's experiences of desire, but also from her willingness to undermine the stability of discursive constructions of women's subjectivity containing that desire. Between and within Keynotes and Discords, Egerton develops a mixed feminine subjectivity that exceeds traditional Victorian feminine subjectivity by moving toward reciprocal relationships with gender, racial, imperial, and class Others. Her largely white, upper-class, and English female protagonists do indeed fit the unitary and coherent model of Victorian subjectivity to a great extent, but Egerton challenges this model of subjectivity by showing the limits it places on women's ability to participate in reciprocal contact with the Other and the possibilities once women's subjectivities begin to resist its unitary and static nature. The first story of Keynotes, "A Cross Line," and the last story of Discords, "The Regeneration of Two," occupy important positions in Egerton's project of moving her white, English, upper-class, Victorian woman toward a sense of self that would enable her to be more than Victorian femininity allows.
Summary: ABSTRACT (cont.): The two stories form a double gesture with "A Cross Line" recuperating women's awareness of their subversive potential within Victorian feminine identity and "The Regeneration of Two" exploring how far that potential may be realized within Victorian culture. As she develops her model of women's subjectivity, Egerton attempts not to radically break with Victorian femininity but instead to smudge the edges that confine women so strictly within the position of non-subject. They are the women with gray gloves; they are the women who move on the edges of the discursive construct of feminine subjectivity and constantly push those edges as they move toward a space that allows for the expression of their own desires, not the desires that men would grant them. Egerton's insistence on the mixed nature of her art and the women depicted in that art thus undermines any attempt to construct a stable, unitary identity--the black and white of the self and Other continually blend into a patchwork of infinite grays.
Summary: KEYWORDS: George Egerton, Mary Chavelita Dunne Bright, Victorian literature, feminine identity, feminist theory, short story, fin-de-siècle, nineteenth-century women writers, Keynotes, Discords
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2001.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 31-32).
System Details: System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
System Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Statement of Responsibility: by Lisa Hager.
General Note: Title from first page of PDF file.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains vii, 33 p.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00100838
Volume ID: VID00001
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Holding Location: University of Florida
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Resource Identifier: oclc - 48514997
alephbibnum - 002765978
notis - ANP4017

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PIECING TOGETHER A GRAY PATCHWORK: THE FORMATION OF FEMININE
IDENTITY IN GEORGE EGERTON'S KEYNOTES AND DISCORDS

















By

LISA HAGER


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2001




























Copyright 2001

by

Lisa Hager




























To Noel















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I wish to thank a number of people, without whom I would never have finished or

even begun this project. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my family, who has supported

me in all of my endeavors whether I liked it or not. I am also indebted to my fellow

graduate students in the English Department at the University of Florida, especially my

very good friend Julie Sinn and the Quilters, for supporting me as can only those who are

in the same boat. Thank you also to Jayson Akridge, who has listened ever so patiently

and sensitively to my every neurotic obsession about this project. Last but most

definitely not least, I thank the faculty and staff of the English Department and, in

particular, Dr. Chris Snodgrass and Dr. Pamela Gilbert, whose guidance challenged me to

become a better writer and scholar.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

A B STRA CT .............. ...........................................................................................vi

CHAPTERS

IN T R O D U C T IO N ...................................................................................... ............... ....

PIECING TOGETHER A GRAY PATCHWORK: THE FORMATION OF FEMININE
IDENTITY IN GEORGE EGERTON' S KEYNOTES AND DISCORDS.........................

C O N CLU SIO N ............................................................................ ................... 30

LIST OF REFEREN CES ................................ ........................... .................... 31

BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ...................................................................33




























v















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

PIECING TOGETHER A GRAY PATCHWORK: THE FORMATION OF FEMININE
IDENTITY IN GEORGE EGERTON' S KEYNOTES AND DISCORDS

By

Lisa Hager

August 2001


Chairperson: Dr. Chris Snodgrass
Major Department: English

The publication of George Egerton's Keynotes (1893) and Discords (1894) caused

quite a stir among the Victorian reading public and literary critics. In these two volumes

of short stories, Egerton pushed the limits of English sensibilities with her frank treatment

of women's sensuality and sexuality, and her critics responded strongly to both the

subject and style of this cultural boundary crossing. Egerton's fiction is intertwined with

a notion of mixing the unmixable-literally turning life upside down. Hence the

scandalousness of Egerton's fiction comes not only from her explicit discussion of

women's experiences of desire, but also from her willingness to undermine the stability

of discursive constructions of women's subjectivity containing that desire. Between and

within Keynotes and Discords, Egerton develops a mixed feminine subjectivity that

exceeds traditional Victorian feminine subjectivity by moving toward reciprocal

relationships with gender, racial, imperial, and class Others. Her largely white, upper-

class, and English female protagonists do indeed fit the unitary and coherent model of









Victorian subjectivity to a great extent, but Egerton challenges this model of subjectivity

by showing the limits it places on women's ability to participate in reciprocal contact

with the Other and the possibilities once women's subjectivities begin to resist its unitary

and static nature. The first story of Keynotes, "A Cross Line," and the last story of

Discords, "The Regeneration of Two," occupy important positions in Egerton's project of

moving her white, English, upper-class, Victorian woman toward a sense of self that

would enable her to be more than Victorian femininity allows. The two stories form a

double gesture with "A Cross Line" recuperating women's awareness of their subversive

potential within Victorian feminine identity and "The Regeneration of Two" exploring

how far that potential may be realized within Victorian culture. As she develops her

model of women's subjectivity, Egerton attempts not to radically break with Victorian

femininity but instead to smudge the edges that confine women so strictly within the

position of non-subject. They are the women with gray gloves; they are the women who

move on the edges of the discursive construct of feminine subjectivity and constantly

push those edges as they move toward a space that allows for the expression of their own

desires, not the desires that men would grant them. Egerton's insistence on the mixed

nature of her art and the women depicted in that art thus undermines any attempt to

construct a stable, unitary identity-the black and white of the self and Other continually

blend into a patchwork of infinite grays.















INTRODUCTION

The publication of George Egerton's Keynotes (1893) and Discords (1894) caused

quite a stir among the Victorian reading public and literary critics. In these two volumes

of short stories, Egerton pushed the limits of English sensibilities with her frank treatment

of women's sensuality and sexuality, and her critics responded strongly to both the

subject and style of this cultural boundary crossing. As Gerd Bjorhovde notes in

Rebellious Structures, Victorians were "as shocked by the way she wrote as by what she

wrote" (129). In particular, critics and readers like focused on the liminality of Egerton's

fiction. In his 1894 review of Keynotes in The Academy, William Sharp notes, "There is a

sense . That life is 'topsy-turvey [sic]'" (142). For this reviewer, the indeterminate

aspects of Keynotes disturb the boundaries that normally regulate and control Victorian

society. Egerton's fiction is intertwined with a notion of mixing the unmixable -literally

turning life upside down. Hence the scandalousness of Egerton's fiction comes not only

from her explicit discussion of women's experiences of desire, but also from her

willingness to undermine the stability of discursive constructions of women's subjectivity

containing that desire. Between and within Keynotes and Discords, Egerton develops a

mixed feminine subjectivity that exceeds traditional Victorian feminine subjectivity by

moving toward reciprocal relationships with gender, racial, imperial, and class Others.














PIECING TOGETHER A GRAY PATCHWORK: THE FORMATION OF FEMININE
IDENTITY IN GEORGE EGERTON' S KEYNOTES AND DISCORDS

Much current scholarship on Egerton has tended to see the indeterminate nature of

the feminine subjectivity mapped out in Keynotes and Discords as a problem rather than

the central concern. In looking at feminine identity in the two books, scholars have both

praised and problematized Egerton's use of essentialist discourse and left relatively

untouched the double gesture that Egerton makes through the two volumes. Lyn Pykett

views Egerton's use of essentialism positively, noting that "Egerton does not simply

reproduce this essentialist discourse, she also appropriates and interrogates it" (168). For

Pykett then, Egerton's essentialism works not to maintain traditional notions of feminine

subjectivity but instead subversively uses essentialist discourse to challenge those notions

of subjectivity. However, Laura Chrisman disagrees on the subversiveness of such a

move and argues, "it was precisely through collusion with, and not in opposition to,

hierarchical notions of ethnic and cultural difference, that feminist identity was

articulated" (45). While I am not necessarily arguing, as Chrisman does here, that

Egerton was formulating a specifically "feminist identity," Egerton's work, like any other

Victorian's, does operate within late-Victorian discourses of racial and cultural privilege.

Although these viewpoints do reveal important aspects of Egerton's project in Keynotes

and Discords, both attempt to fix Egerton's position as either subversive or conservative

and, in doing so, set up a false dichotomy between the two. And as in her own life,

Egerton's position is hard to entirely determine; she always makes a seemingly

contradictory gesture toward both the shocking and the conventional. If, instead,









Egerton's movement toward a mixed feminine subjectivity grounded in mutuality with

the Other becomes a process of constructing what Judith Butler terms in Gender Trouble

an "Intelligible" identity, then Egerton's feminine subjectivity is simultaneously both

conservative and subversive (23). Her largely white, upper-class, and English female

protagonists do indeed fit the unitary and coherent model of Victorian subjectivity to a

great extent, but Egerton challenges this model of subjectivity by showing the limits it

places on women's ability to participate in reciprocal contact with the Other and the

possibilities once women's subjectivities begin to resist its unitary and static nature.

For Egerton, this subversion does not entail the absolute rejection of Victorian

constructions of feminine identity but rather a certain mixture of the subversive with the

conservative within that identity. As Laura Marholm Hansson (Laura Mohr) notes

regarding "Her Share" in Discords, "the style is full of tenderness, perhaps even a trifle

too sweet. It affects one like a landscape on an evening early in autumn, when the sun

has gone down and twilight reigns; it seems as though veiled in gray, for there is no color

left, although everything is strangely clear" (91). A playwright herself and the wife of

the Swedish writer Ola Hansson, Marholm Hansson here notices how Egerton's women

are always creatures of the twilight, that infinitesimal liminal moment when day and

night meet-a gray light that is neither one nor the other. In late-Victorian fiction, this

sort of indeterminacy takes on the additional valence of an association with the liminality

of the modem woman. Even a decade before the publication of Keynotes, early New

Woman writer Olive Schreiner connected modern writing with grayness. Schreiner

explains in her preface to Story of an African Farm:

But, should one sit down to paint the scenes among which he [the colonial
writer] has grown, he will find that the facts creep in upon him. Those brilliant









phrases and shapes which the imagination sees in far-off lands are not for him to
portray. Sadly he must squeeze the colour from his brush, and dip it into the grey
pigments around him. He must paint what lies before him. (30)

Through the voice of a male nom de plume, Schreiner here connects liminality with

grayness. It is a very normal association to be sure, but the association only works if, as

with Schreiner and Egerton, their fictional is seen as that which cannot be a "pure" flight

of fancy because its mixed nature precludes it from having any sort of purity. Egerton's

thoroughly mixed woman therefore represents not a purely "new" woman but a woman

whose movement between the new and the old calls attention to the impossibility of

being purely either.

In structuring Keynotes and Discords, Egerton destabilizes the genre boundaries

that divide the short story and the novel so that her books become hybrids of both,

blending the intense focus of the short story and the larger breadth of the novel so that

she can develop her mixed feminine subjectivity within both genres. The novel's ability

to make broader social statements merges with the short story's specificity, and the mix

allows an author who claimed that "the long book was not my pigeon" to trace her

women's collective movement toward subjectivity without a total denial of difference

("A Keynote to Keyn,,iie' 59). Through this hybrid form, Egerton was able to get away

from many of the well-sedimented conventions of the Victorian novel and do something

that she felt had yet to be done in fiction as a whole: "I realized in literature, everything

had been better done by man than woman could hope to emulate. There was only one

small plot left for her to tell: the terra incognita of herself, as she knew herself to be, not

as man liked to imagine her-in a word to give herself away, as man had given himself

away in his writings. In that, I think I succeeded" ("A Keynote to Keyuiie,"' 58).









Although Egerton is working from an essentialist notion of woman, and man for that

matter, she leaves her construction of woman decidedly incomplete. For, if Egerton was

writing "as she knew herself to be," she acknowledges that she writes woman from her

own specific viewpoint and not from some totalizing universal distance ("A Keynote to

Keyineie" 58). Hers is only one vision of woman's possibilities, of what could be found

in the terra incognita, and even that vision is made multiple through her many different

yet similar women. In each story, Egerton's keenly sensitive and intelligent late-

Victorian upper-class woman reappears with certain important variations that mark the

development of the theme. As critics of Egerton's own time noted, the author "chiefly

aims at painting the kaleidoscopic nature of women. The lawless, unconventional,

passionate type is repeated several times, under different guises" (Rev. of Keynotes in

The Bookman 87). Laura Marholm Hansson also comments on this repetition of

Egerton's central subject in both collections: "A little woman in every imaginable mood,

who is placed in all kinds of likely and unlikely circumstances: in every story it is the

same little woman with a difference" (65). Although she is repeated in every story,

Egerton's woman is always repeated with a difference. That simultaneous similarity and

difference allows Egerton to depict the development of a mixed feminine subjectivity

through the multiple women of each volumes' stories. Hence while the books may be

collections of short stories, the stories themselves have a relationship as a larger whole.

They connect with one another through the periodic repetition of various motifs, such as

Norwegian setting, hypersensitive female protagonist, and women's wildness; however,

each individual story has its own particular note to add to the chord of women's

subjectivity. Both volumes include the repetition of these motifs within their stories, but









the books differ in their overall tones. The stories of Keynotes largely concentrate on the

moments when women set the tone for their lives, whereas the stories of Discords mostly

concern themselves with moments when women are in fundamental conflict with their

feminine role in Victorian society. Egerton links Keynotes and Discords together so that

the two volumes themselves act as movements in a larger symphony, but retain their

distinctness within that symphony.

This patchwork identity is the work both within and between Egerton's first two

books, Keynotes and Discords. The first story ofKeynotes, "A Cross Line," and the last

story of Discords, "The Regeneration of Two," occupy important positions in Egerton's

project of moving her white, English, upper-class, Victorian woman toward a sense of

self that would enable her to be more than Victorian femininity allows. Although

Egerton did not intend for "A Cross Line" to be at the beginning of Keynotes, the story's

scandalous subject of an extra-martial affair made her publisher and readers alike focus

on the story as the keynote of the book. Egerton herself had positioned the story last in

the table of contents that accompanied the book's manuscript, but publisher John Lane

decided that it ought to be first. Thus while Egerton envisioned "A Cross Line" as the

culmination of Keynotes, her readers read the story as its beginning. However in either

position, the story occupies an important place in the collection and works to represent

what Egerton is doing in Keynotes as a whole. These "key" stories in both of the books

function as overture and finale respectively and, as such, "A Cross Line" and "The

Regeneration of Two" provide a framework for understanding the variations presented in

each of the other stories as Egerton moves her women away from a unitary sense of self

toward a more indeterminate and temporary self. The two stories form a double gesture









with "A Cross Line" recuperating women's awareness of their subversive potential

within Victorian feminine identity and "The Regeneration of Two" exploring how far that

potential may be realized within Victorian culture.

In "A Cross Line," Egerton's female protagonist ultimately reaffirms the

boundaries that separate her from gender, racial, imperial and class Others because she

remains locked in a unitary identity that prevents exchange in kind with any Other. Yet

from the beginning of "A Cross Line" Egerton sets up her female protagonist as a

mixture of elements that have the potential to move her toward a heterogeneous identity.

The first view of the woman immediately emphasizes her varied nature: "A woman

sitting on a felled tree turns her head to meet its [the sound of the grey man's whistle]

coming, and an expression flits across her face in which disgust and humorous

appreciation are subtly blended" (Keynotes 9). The mix of contradictory reactions in the

woman's facial expression establishes her as both a creature of contrasts, who feels the

traditional and subversive responses to such a scene. This woman is capable of

appreciating and enjoying something beyond the easy pleasure of similarity and

symmetry; she likes difference and can respond to the incongruity of the grey man's

whistle and their pastoral surroundings with fitting ambiguity. Yet, for all of her

seemingly disruptive potential, this woman remains tied to a unitary notion of feminine

subjectivity; she remains "a lady decidedly" with all traditional Victorian racial, imperial,

and class distinctions of separation from Others that the term implies (Keynotes 13). The

woman in "A Cross Line" may step outside the borders of English whiteness through the

non-English color of her "slim brown hand" and "her skin [that] looks duskily foreign" in

contrast her light-colored gown, but she remains English and white under that tan









(Keynotes 12; 15). As she tells her lover, the female protagonist of"A Cross Line" cannot

be touched by another in any meaningful way; she is, in her own words, "written in black

letter to most" (Keynotes 32). In remaining "Victorian woman" in the assumed sense of

the term, she remains unable to have any contact that would acknowledge mutual need

with a gender, racial, imperial, or class Other.

The most obvious way that this woman returns to the boundaries of Victorian

femininity is through her relationships with her husband and her lover. Although the

lady's husband is not her intellectual or even spiritual equal, she clearly desires him on a

physical level and does not have any understanding of how such a relationship confines

her. Such an oafish and harmless man as her husband can never mentally satisfy this

woman because "There is a singular soft monotony in his voice; the organ with which she

replies is capable of more varied expression" (Keynotes 19). This simple man can never

hope to understand the subtle mixture of his wife's mind, but he enjoys their relationship

because she understands him and does not mind that he may have loved another before

their marriage. He complements her on her easy ability to deal with such situations like a

man: "being married to you [this woman] is like chumming with a chap!" (Keynotes 25).

For her part, she takes pleasure in their sexual relationship and enjoys it a great deal when

he "carries her off to her room" (Keynotes 26). Hence while her varied nature may reveal

how unsuitable her husband is, the woman does understand the effect of this relationship

on her own mixed potential. Egerton explores this effect by returning to this marital

situation later in Keynotes with "An Empty Frame." In this story, the woman realizes

that another woman would have suited her husband just as well. She has given up the

man with whom she might have surprised even herself because he would not marry her:









"'the fact that you could put her [her husband's earlier lover] on the same level, that if it

had not been for a mistake she would have suited you as well, made me realize, don't you

see? that I would have done some one else better! '" (Keynotes 130). With the right man,

she could have surpassed even her own dreams of her potential's realization. This

woman understands what the woman in "A Cross Line" does not even consider; she

understands her own potential in the right relationship a relationship that explicitly

would not include marriage. She tells her husband that "'I'-with a catch of the voice-

'with a great man might have made a great woman; and now those who understand me

[bitterly] think of me as great failure'" (Keynotes 130). While the woman in "An Empty

Frame" has also already made her mistake, she at least comprehends her own potential

and the extent to which her husband precludes the development of that potential, whereas

the woman in "A Cross Line" seems willing to forgo any search for her true soulmate or

even to pursue a single life in which her mixed nature would be unfettered by the

constant presence of such a man.

Although the woman in "A Cross Line" chooses not to understand how much her

husband limits her, she does have an extra-marital affair with a stranger whom she meets

while fishing alone and who appears to be more her intellectual equal. However, she

remains untouched even by her lover because she cannot acknowledge her need for the

Other. Her lover is more like the protagonist and has the ability to appreciate her mixed

nature. Throughout the story, the descriptions given to his appearance all include a gray

element; both of the times that he appears in the story his "gray-clad figure" and "cold,

gray eyes" are noted (Keynotes 11). Although Egerton never describes the man's mind,

his gray outward appearance implies a certain modern, almost feminine, indeterminacy









that can at least begin to appreciate the complexity of the female protagonist. He can

listen to her tell him about herself, but he cannot touch her emotionally. He, in the

woman's words, does "not misunderstand me" (Keynotes 33). The affair cannot hold her,

and she quite matter-of-factly tells her lover that what she does not like about his vision

of running away on his yacht together is that he would be there. She prefers "the

freedom, the freshness, the vague danger, the unknown" (Keynotes 27). He is not the

writer of "Now Spring Has Come" whose novel of "all the tragedy of a man's soul-strife

with evil and destiny, sorrow and sin, [bit] into my [the female protagonist's] sentient

being" and who captures her emotional as well as her intellectual imagination (Keynotes

49). Despite his inability to comprehend the full extent of her eternally shifting nature,

the gray man is able to refrain from making the sort of assumptions about her mind that

would fix her in a subordinate role. However, compared with the women who follow her

in both volumes, this woman cannot go outside of herself enough to understand how

valuable not being misunderstood can be. She has yet to understand the value of desire

for Others: "I have been for myself, and helped myself, and borne the burden of my own

mistakes. Some have chafed at my self-sufficiency, and have called me fickle,-not

understanding that they gave me nothing, and that when I had served them their moment

was ended, and I was to pass on" (Keynotes 32). Though she can give to Others, this

woman never receives anything from them. She remains closed off to any sort of mutual

relationship and cannot desire anything from anyone because she does not understand the

possibility of a feminine identity that allows contact with the Other without

subordination. This woman feels that she must remain within herself or else she will lose

what little independence by acknowledging her dependence on another. She may have









"caught" her lover like the woman in "The Little Grey Glove," but she cannot understand

the value of her catch. She cannot admit that she "could learn to [with a rush of color]"

love him after she has learnede] to think of [herself] as a free woman again" as does the

woman in the other story (Keynotes 120; 121). No matter how much the man in gray

may feel "an infernal want," she has yet to experience active desire for him (Keynotes

33). Even from her lover, the female protagonist remains closed off to mutual exchange

because of her refusal to allow herself to experience desirous need for the Other.

Egerton further explores and then recuperates the disruptive potential of the

female protagonist's desire within a unitary Victorian feminine identity through the

imperialist discursive separation between the woman and racial Others. The only point in

the story in which the female protagonist does experience desire, the often-discussed

clouds passage, is grounded in an eroticization of the imperial Other that prevents the

woman from understanding the subjectivity of that Other. In this passage, the woman

experiences desire within her own mind and body that enables her to cross the boundaries

of time and place. She experiences this desire, the need for the Other, outside the bounds

of Victorian society. The woman imagines a fantastic vision of herself dancing before

men of the ages: "She bounds forward and dances, bends her lissome waist, and curves

her slender arms, and gives to the soul of each man what he craves, be it good or evil"

(Keynotes 27). Here, Egerton seems to be portraying how this woman does not need a

man to enjoy the eroticism of her own body. For although the female protagonist does

include men as audience members in her fantasy, her focus on her own erotic experience

of her body undermines the traditional power of the male viewer. She mixes the

experience of her own erotic body with the desire to view that body she herself takes









pleasure in seeing her own body as she dances. However, this daringly sexual and

sensual passage, which plainly discusses a woman's enjoyment of her own body, is

begun by an escape from the confines of English cultural space and Victorian time:

"Someway she thinks of Cleopatra sailing down to meet Antonio, and a great longing

fills her soul to sail off somewhere too,-away from the daily need of dinner-getting and

the recurring Monday with its washing, life with its tame duties and virtuous monotony"

(Keynotes 26-7). As her mind crosses the boundaries of time and place, she closely

connects the flight of her imagination with a flight from the domestic space of Victorian

femininity. The foreign past becomes a space where she is not locked into playing a

certain role and can begin to experience desire. Her desire thus takes the form an

Arabian horse who takes her swiftly from the boring everydayness of Victorian England:

She fancies herself in Arabia on the back of a swift steed flashing eyes set
in dark faces surround her, and she can see the clouds of sand swirl, and feel the
swing under her of his rushing stride; and her thoughts shape themselves into a
wild song,- a song to her steed of flowing mane and satin skin, and uncouth
rhythmical jingle with a feverish beat a song to the untamed spirit that dwells
within her. (Keynotes 27)

Here, in this clearly non-English, non-Victorian time and place the woman can feel the

passion that her daily life lacks. Through this experience of desire resulting from

geographical and temporal movement, Egerton begins moving her heroine toward a

subjectivity that does not require her to be a one-note character in the stories of men but

instead allows her to be continually moving in and out of different subject positions. This

woman represents the beginning of Egerton's refusal to lock her female protagonists into

the role of the feminine in Victorian society: a role that requires women to be what Luce

Irigaray terms "a body-object which is there, which does not move, which he can go back

to whenever he likes" ("Women-Mothers" 49). However, this woman's movement is not









entirely liberatory because of her relationship to the imperial Other. In escaping to this

land of desire, the woman positions the space of the imperial Other as "a signifier and

repository of aestheticized eroticism" (Chrisman 55). Just as the woman in "A Shadow's

Slant," the second story of "Under Northern Sky," reveals her wildness when she meets a

gypsy woman, so too does the woman of "A Cross Line" show that untamablee quantity

that may be concealed but is never eradicated by culture, the keynote of woman's

witchcraft and woman's strength" in her encounters with the foreign Other in the clouds

passage (Keynotes 30). The woman in "A Cross Line" aestheticizes this encounter to the

point that she does not even meet a single person, but instead sees "flashing eyes set in

dark faces surround her" (Keynotes 27). She cannot see the humanity of the Other and

does not, as does the woman in "A Shadow's Slant," experience a small moment of

understanding where "Eye seeks eye-sympathy meets sympathy" between the self and

Other (Keynotes 156). The woman in "A Cross Line" remains firmly locked within

Victorian constructions of the Other as non-subject and cannot understand what such an

Other can offer her. She remains always the lady of the house who is untouched by those

who are not her own race and class. Thus, although the woman in "A Cross Line" does

experience desire outside of Victorian unitary subjectivity, she returns to that subjectivity

by refusing to understand the subjectivity of the imperial Other and cannot acknowledge

the benefit to herself of mutual exchange with the Other.

The female protagonist's inability to recognize the subjectivity of Others also

inhibits the subversive nature of her relationships with other women. The woman

constantly reasserts her privileged position in her relationships with other women and

cannot acknowledge the subjectivity of those women. Immediately after she envisions









herself dancing erotically, the woman contemplates her interactions with other women

and wonders if they too feel the wild sensuality as she does: "Stray words, half

confidences, glimpses through soul-chinks of suppressed fires, actual outbreaks, domestic

catastrophes, how the ghosts dance in the cells of her memory!" (Keynotes 21). This

woman sees what conservative society would ignore. She knows how each of these

women's little rebellions signifies that all women have the potential and the desire to

experience their bodies sensually and sexually even though society now manages to

confine them. Other women have been able to find in this woman a strength and candor

that they have desperately needed in their own lives: "'Women talk to me-why, I can't

say-but always they come, strip their hearts and souls naked, and let me see the hidden

folds of their natures. The greatest tragedies I have ever read are child's play to those I

have seen acted in the inner life of outwardly commonplace women'" (Keynotes 28-9).

Notably, however, this woman remains apart from the women she discusses; she has no

story to share in turn with women who tell her the heartrending stories of their lives.

Consequently, though she can appreciate the tragedy of the death of her unwed maid's

baby and use the knowledge of the other woman's sorrows to understand her own

pregnancy, she will not suffer as her maid has because she remains always in the position

of the married, upper-class lady of the house. The maid is positioned in the narrative as a

non-subject, as an animal: "The look in her eyes is the look of faithful dog, and she loves

with the same rare fidelity" (Keynotes 41-2). The maid does not volunteer her story

about her child, nor does she offer to show the keepsake box. Instead, her mistress

commands by asking the unmarried maid if she ever had a child with the assumption that

such a lower-class woman would naturally have been a mother: "she asks it with a quiet









insistence, as if she knew what the answer would be, and her odd eyes read her face with

an almost cruel steadiness" (Keynotes 42). Not once does the lady of the house seem to

understand the unequal power position in which she puts her maid when she asks about

the maid's child. She lacks the ability to alter her own viewpoint and see from the eyes of

those whose circumstances differ from her own. While she sympathizes with the maid as

a mother-to-be, she remains always the lady of the house: "the mistress, who is a wife,

puts her arms round the tall maid, who has never had more than moral claim to the name,

and kisses in her quick way" (Keynotes 43). The lower-class maid lacks any sort of

subjectivity because the female protagonist cannot go beyond her own specific position to

understand how she could need Others in any way.

As Keynotes progresses, Egerton returns to the woman-to-woman bond, and the

women begin to learn the importance of other women as subjects in their own right.

Increasingly in Keynotes, Egerton reveals how the identities of female protagonists are

dependent upon their relationships with other women. In "Spell of the White Elf," the

seemingly independent woman acknowledges how other women make possible her life of

both artistic and maternal fulfillment but also constructs them as less highly evolved than

herself because they are creatures of emotion. As she tells the narrator about the woman

whose child she now cares for, she both makes clear her appreciation for having the child

that she was physically incapable of producing and her superiority to the child's

biological mother, whose hate for the protagonist was so strong as to make the child

resemble the protagonist. Thus, though she grants the woman's importance in her life,

she simultaneously positions her as a lesser being: "'Those narrow, poor creatures are

capable of an intensity of feeling concentrated on one object that larger natures can









scarcely measure"' (Keynotes 87). She also does the same with her housekeeper, whom

she very much appreciates but also thinks of as a lesser, more emotional creature: "I have

a treasure, too, in Belinda. She is one of those women who must have something to love"

(Keynotes 88). This woman represents a progression from the woman in "A Cross Line"

in that she can at least admit the value of other women to her subjectivity, but she still has

yet to recognize their own subjectivity beyond being creatures of emotion. In the three-

part "Under Northern Sky," lower-class women are also instrumental in encouraging their

mistresses' movements toward subjectivity, but the lower-class women in this final story

of Keynotes become more than just emotive supports through their abilities to understand

what is required for their mistresses to continue that movement. "How Marie Larsen

Exorcised a Demon," the first story in "Under Northern Sky," is the only story in the

entire collection where the lower-class woman is the main character. Marie Larsen gains

for her mistress "a rare, delicious, dreamless slumber" by using her storytelling to

triumph over the drunken master of the house (Keynotes 147). She alone has the ability

to do battle with the master and "[takes] the enemy by stratagem" (Keynotes 140). Marie

is not just an emotional lower-class woman, but instead has the intellect to overcome the

master through language. In "An Ebb Tide," the concluding story, the cow-girl Gundrun

enables the lady of the house to make the journey toward her future. The cow-girl may be

the one who is the most emotional over the death of the master, but she also sees her

mistress safely to the boat by instinctively "[watching] her steps" (Keynotes 186). Above

all the townspeople that follow the woman to the waiting tug, Gundrun makes sure that

her mistress can go on to "a brighter dawn" after the death of their master (Keynotes

192). By developing the bond between women throughout Keynotes, Egerton revises the









woman of the first story to begin forming a feminine subjectivity that invites more

reciprocal exchanges with the feminine Other. "A Cross Line" thus lays the groundwork

for Egerton's further destabilization of Victorian unitary identity by beginning to

investigate the possibility of mutuality between self and Other.

Although "A Cross Line" does ultimately maintain the power structures that it

appears to disturb, the story did provoke a very strong reaction among its Victorian

readers for its brazen challenge to Victorian codes of feminine propriety. As Margaret

Stetz has argued, the story acted as an attention grabber for the rest of Keynotes: "With its

plot based on casual adultery, its references to unwed mothers, and its flattering portrayal

of a woman who drinks whiskey, goes fishing alone, and smokes cigarettes, 'A Cross

Line' flung up a red flag to John Bull that guaranteed attention for the whole book" (36).

Despite the female protagonists' recuperation of unitary Victorian feminine identity, this

story still represents the beginning of Egerton's development of a feminine subjectivity

capable of reciprocal contact with the Other. Punch, in choosing this story for the basis of

its "She-Notes" parody, cannot avoid acknowledging how difficult it is to contain the

female protagonist in this story because she represents the beginning of Egerton's

slipping out of the confines of feminine identity. Unsurprisingly for a paper known for

its harsh criticism of the New Woman, the parody expresses an obvious distaste for

Keynotes and Egerton herself, whose transformation into "Borgia Smudgiton" alludes to

her besmirching proper Victorian womanhood ("She-Notes Part I."109). Yet in making

an issue of the woman's slipperiness, "She-Notes" betrays the extent to which even this

biting satire cannot control the women of Keynotes or its author in their desirous

movements toward subjectivity. The protagonist is said to be a Satanic "water-snake,"









whose "unwashed" hands indicate her moral uncleanness ("She-Notes: Part I" 109). The

obvious snake-in-the-Garden references aside, this description also reveals the extent to

which it is difficult to keep hold of the women in Keynotes. Not only are the women

slippery and snake-like, but they have the added slickness of the water, the fluid medium

through which they move, because they are also water snakes. Punch also noticeably

revises the ending and makes it quite a bit safer by having the maid run off her mistress's

lover. The dangerous bond between women is destroyed by making the man the center of

attention instead of the shared maternal feelings with which the original story ends: "The

grey man, after all, had his consolation" ("She-Notes: Part II" 129). In making this

revision, "She-Notes" reveals Victorian patriarchy's need to contain changing Victorian

constructions of femininity that imply women's right to piece together identities apart

from their relationships with men. As the overture to such a project, "A Cross Line"

continually points to but does not realize the possibility of a mixed feminine subjectivity.

However, the story is only the beginning of Egerton's project, which culminates in the

final story of Discords going much further than the already shocking "A Cross Line."

Published only one year after Keynotes, Discords both follows and departs from

its predecessor. Egerton does continue her mapping out of a mixed feminine subjectivity

through female protagonists, but the stories in this volume take a much darker turn. All

but the last of the stories focus not on the triumphant Keynotes of women beginning to

claim their own subjectivity, but on the tortured Discords between women's needs for

subjectivity and the denial of subjectivity inherent in Victorian femininity. As Hansson

noted two years after its publication, Discords is very much about the pain of women's

position in Victorian society: "no book that I have ever read has impressed me with such









a vivid sense of physical pain . a woman who holds her trembling hands to the

wounds which man has inflicted upon her, of which the pain is intensified each time that

he draws near" (88). In a review of Discords called "Socio-Literary Portents," an

anonymous reviewer describes the collection as "a book of pain-a book written not in

wantonness of spirit. . but in tears and blood" (684). Surprisingly, however, for a

book known for its anguish, Discords concludes with Egerton's very hopeful utopia,

"The Regeneration of Two." Rosie Miles points out, as she looks at Egerton's use of

musical allusion in her literary art, "On the first page of the opening story in Discords a

literal discord is printed in musical notation. On the page that opens that second part of

the final story in the volume, 'The Regeneration of Two,' a resolution of this chord is

printed: harmony is found in one of Egerton's most utopian and positive stories in which

she portrays the perfect union between a man and a woman" (251). In the context of

Discords, Egerton's use of the utopia seems out of place a too happy ending for a too

painful book. Yet, the author undermines any tendency within the story to create a fixed

solution for the Discords of women's subjectivities by using the utopic aspects of "The

Regeneration of Two" to create an imaginative space where she can constantly reassert

the impossibility of a static, unitary feminine subjectivity through contact with the Other.

As Martha Vicinus has argued, the power of this story comes from "a need to imagine a

better world where women work together and men understand and keep their freedom

too" (23). In addition to Vicinus' assertion that such forms allowed women writers "to

subvert traditional form with utopian images, opening out the closed world of the realistic

story to new, provocative, and unpredictable paths," the utopia in Egerton is also space

where the existing conventions of the realist story can be made unsettled and reworked to









disturb the power of those conventions to create the illusion of the "real" in fiction (21).

The subversion of mixing the utopia with a realist story implicitly requires a containment

of that subversion inherent in depicting a separatist space that is not possible in everyday

life. For while the female protagonist of "The Regeneration of Two" does indeed step

outside the bounds of Victorian feminine identity in forming a "free-love" union with her

poet and founding her commune for fallen women, the absolute perfection of her love

and work takes this woman's identity outside the realm of the possible and into the world

of the imaginary. She may attempt to prevent the total romaticization of Norway as a

place of escape by mixing her descriptions of its simple beauty with the practical

demands of everyday life, but she does indeed move her utopia outside of England to the

picturesque Norwegian countryside where the power of convention is weaker. Egerton

can do what cannot be attempted in the real world: "Phantasmatic language allowed

female aesthetes to describe actions forbidden to modern life . The languages marked

the characters as 'other,' different" (Schaffer 51). While Egerton can depict her female

protagonist committing forbidden acts and having suppressed thoughts through her use of

the utopia, she never makes those acts and thoughts fully available to real Victorian

women. The woman in the story does indeed develop from a hypersensitive, bored,

intelligent, upper-class, above-it-all lady into a woman who understands the necessity of

constructing her own subjectivity as mixed with that of others, but the utopic aspects of

the story severally limit the availability of such a subjectivity to Victorian women by

placing the woman too far outside the real lived experience of those women. However,

Egerton's maintenance of the unitary coherent Victorian subject is also simultaneously

undermined by the mixed nature of the feminine identities she that forms out of that









subject. This mixed subjectivity subverts integrity of the unitary subject by allowing

desire to keep the subject always incomplete and multiple. This Victorian woman writer

does not take her readers outside of the realm of Victorian social codes but rather works

within that realm to create tension that undercuts its fundamental ability to account for

the women's potential mixture with the Other. George Egerton uses scraps of the

Victorian discursive construction of feminine identity to quilt a self that can operate

within that discourse without being totally contained by it.

The woman in "The Regeneration of Two" begins the process of understanding

how she has allowed herself to be contained by Victorian femininity through an

encounter with a wandering poet whose comments on the degeneration of women in

society begin her own process of self-reflection. Prior to meeting with the poet, the

woman seems to be another of Egerton's potentially great women: "taking her altogether,

she is seductively attractive, a thing of piquant contrasts-the attractive artificiality,

physical lassitude and irritable weariness of a disillusioned woman of the world, and the

eyes of a spoilt child filled with frank petulant query" (Discords 165). While her nature

of mixed contrasts indicates her potential for moving toward subjectivity just outside of

the Victorian feminine role, this woman seems less likely to make it than even the woman

of "A Cross Line" because she lacks even that woman's small amount of self-awareness.

However, the final woman of Discords does something the other woman never could: she

falls in love and acknowledges her own desire for the Other. She meets a poet who is as

much a mixture as she with his eyes: "steel-grey as a lake without sunlight" (Discords

180). He "sees too much," sees the ills that world would hide, and has the "dual nature .

. the very harmony of his creations springs from the Discords of his temperament" to









understand what he sees (Discords 188). He tells her how he found only "vanity, the old

insatiable love of power that is the breath of most women's nostrils, or the physiological

necessity for excitement that belongs to the wavering cycle of her being" when he looked

among modem women for a life-long loving companion (Discords 193). His critique of

modern society and particularly the role of women is the first time she considers a man's

feelings toward her: "she never remembers before to have taken the man's feelings into

consideration; she has simply dwelt on her own as of primary importance" (Discords

185). Her desire for him and his love leads her to reflect for the first time on how her

own her pleasure relates to others. She listens intently to his discussion of society's ills,

and begins to see her own position as an artificial woman of the world as distasteful: "She

feels her corset press her like an iron hand; she is shamed to the depths of her soul .

she is the epitome of the class of women he lashes with his scorn! She cringes inwardly,

and a dull pain stirs in her" (Discords 197). The pain of his distaste for women like her

prompts this woman to look inside herself and see the invisible bonds that confine her

within a unitary feminine role that encourages her degeneration. After she and the poet

part ways, she regenerates her body and mind through her own devices, but retains her

desire for the man who inspired her internal and external project. Thus though Egerton

establishes a traditional dynamic, with the clear-sighted male poet showing the worldly

woman the error of evil feminine ways, that dynamic is upset by the poet's mixed nature

and the woman's ability to find a solution to the problem he poses.

In the relationship between these two after their first meeting, Egerton repeatedly

mixes the subversive and the traditional so that the bond between them can allow the

woman to realize her potential for participating in mutual desire without separating









herself entirely from Victorian feminine identity. The poet continues his wandering, and

the woman establishes a commune for fallen women where "She has not stilled her

heartache, nor has she forgotten him but she has found a use for herself' (Discords 204).

This woman has learned the lesson of the woman's advice in "A Psychological Moment

in Three Periods": "Forget yourself, live as much as you can for others, get a purchase for

your own soul some way, let no fate beat you" (Discords 58). Thus while she yearns for

the poet, she does not waste away like the typical romantic heroine; instead, she puts the

three and half years that they are apart to good use and finds work that fulfills her. For,

in living for others, she betters her own life by putting her own sufferings in perspective

and coping with the absence of her love. She understands, as does the woman in the other

story, that "'it may help you to forget your own fate to realize another's harder one'"

(Discords 59). She keeps a place in her heart open for the poet whether he returns or not:

"something tells her to wait, just wait. She scarcely knows what she expects, sometimes

she tells herself nothing-and yet better so" (Discords 212). When she rescues him from

a blizzard and nurses him through the fever that follows, she does not immediately

declare her love for him or even identify herself. Instead, she waits for him to remember

her and express his own feeling for her. She knows that she must simultaneously be a

person herself and love another completely as she decides what she can be to him: "she is

only weighing the effect of it on her own life and work; she is not willing to leave the

plough she has set herself to guide. She realizes well that his love, no matter if it be his

whole love will not fill her completely" (Discords 248). For this woman, "desire is

movement" and she understands that she must not be confined within the role of wife

("Women-Mothers" 49). Consequently, when he does declare his love for her, she does









not ask for marriage but instead desires a commitment where both are free: "'Free

man'-with pride-'and free woman!"' (Discords 251). Unlike the woman in "A Cross

Line," this woman refuses to allow the institution of marriage to contain the subversive

potential of her desire. While it will be she who waits at home, should he decide to

wander, she represents the culmination of the hard lessons about marriage in Discords.

She knows that she ought to ignore what others may think regarding the love that she

knows to be true. She refuses to lose her love over other opinions, as did the woman in

"Her Share," who could not have the love that made her "'[blossom] into a kind of beauty

that belongs to every woman once in her life" because her friends and family did approve

of his foreignness and Socialist political views (Discords 78). That woman gave up her

love and was left with only his aesthetic representation of their relationship: "All the

beauty of my life was on the cover, and my life has been as the empty wooden box with a

date in it'" (Discords 81). She enters into this union with the knowledge that girl in

"Virgin Soil" so horribly lacked: "'the ceremony had no meaning for me, I simply did not

know what I was signing my name to, or what I was vowing to do'" (Discords 154).

Unlike that tragic girl, this woman knows the true character of the man she binds herself

to and understands that in the institution of marriage "'man demands from a wife as a

right, what he must sue from a mistress as a favour'" (Discords 155). The woman in

"The Regeneration of Two" knows exactly what she is doing as a free subject, and she

does not give up her subjectivity, her right to herself, in doing so. She does not marry

under duress, like the tragic woman in "Wedlock," who marries under the false promise

that she can have her daughter born out-of-wedlock live with her after she is married.

She binds herself to this man only for love and companionship. She forms a union with a









man who realizes that their love "will never be more than one note; true, a grand note, in

the harmony of union; but not the harmony" in her life (Discords 246). In this freely-

given bond, the woman and her poet form a union where both retain their subjectivity and

yet remain in what Luce Irigaray terms "amorous exchange" with one another ("Bodily

Encounter" 43-4). Her love will be one of reciprocity where she is both independent

from and dependent on the Other.

The woman's transformed subjectivity, a subjectivity not founded on separation

from but connection with another, also enables her to form bonds with other women that

acknowledge their own subjectivities. Before the woman has her encounter with the

poet, her relationship with her maid Aagot is typical and much echoes the relationship

between the lady and the maid in "A Cross Line." The woman in "The Regeneration of

Two" asks her maid if about love, but dismisses the maid's Spanish love affair as just a

function of environment with the comment: "'You northern always do; 'Spanish' seems

to convey an idea of romance, of beauty to you folk up here'" (Discords 168). The

mistress, as an English woman, is doubtless above such quaint Norwegian associations.

Yet once she has fallen for her foreign "crack-brained poet," she begins to value other

women on a higher level through her establishment of a fallen women's commune

(Discords 210). This is not to say that she does not retain her position as lady of the

house, but rather that she does not see her position as granting her the right to dismiss the

difference in Others. Thus while she can dissect some of her women's faults, she also

recognizes their virtues: "'Take Strine. A lump of emotional inclination, without a grain

of reasoning power or resistance; the daughter of a drunken father and an epileptic

mother; at times affectible as an aspen leaf to a wind-puff-and yet not a bad mother'"









(Discords 208). This woman does indeed feel that she is "helping her sisters out of the

mire" in what Chrisman terms the woman's "social tendency," yet the woman

characterizes these women as sisters and not children (Discords 212; Chrisman 49).

They are not inferiors who need to given lessons in how to live a good life but rather

fellow women who need to be granted the right opportunity to live their lives well. She

understands the lesson that encountering the fallen Edith teaches the young woman in

"Gone Under": "'I have no right to sit in judgment; I have never been tempted'"

(Discords 105). Hence the woman in this final story of Discords echoes the young

woman's "'Edith, sister!'" in viewing these women as sisters (Discords 112). The story

also revises the figure of cow-girl seen in "An Ebb Tide." This Gunhild is not the

instinctual being of all feeling like Gundrun in the final Keynotes story, but instead this

cow-girl is an extremely valued member of the household in this finale of Discords:

She rises with dawn and she has done the round of her work each day;
drunk her share of raw spirit honour of the Yule; danced vigorously each festival
evening and had no sleep for two nights. Yet she makes no complaint; she is true
to her nature with its splendid loyalty, sturdy independence and stubborn pride,
and about as much understanding of conventional morality as the first best cow
amongst her flock. (Discords 228)

No longer is the cow-girl just a typical, over-emotional, lower class woman, acting purely

on instinct. Nor is she required to fit the mold of the middle class woman. Instead,

Gunhild's difference is valued for its strengths, and the lady asks only for the cattle-girl's

hard work and not for her assimilation. Out of all the women in her house, the lady of the

house seems to admire most this woman who is only barely a part of their community:

"She [Gunhild] is never in the house except when the big bell rings for meals, and she

brooks no interference; it is only on rare occasions where strength is wanted that she

lends a hand, and she is proud of the reliance placed in her" (Discords 228). Though she









does not join Gunhild in her radical lifestyle, the female protagonist can appreciate the

cattle-girl without romanticizing the other woman's life. With the inclusion of this

passage about the Gunhild and the lady's regard for her, Egerton makes a space for

difference within Victorian feminine subjectivity. As Lyn Pykett notes in The

"Improper" Feminine, Egerton's marking of space for difference within the feminine

subjectivity that she depicts in "The Regeneration of Two" allows her "to emphasise [sic]

multiplicity and to focus on differences (between women) as well as difference (as a

universal, essentialist gender category)" (173). The female protagonist no longer has "to

elide the specific terms of this othering (ethnic, socioeconomic) by conflating it with the

othering of women on the basis of gender," and can bond with other women while

allowing for the difference between them (McCullough 211). Thus through the woman

in "The Regeneration of Two," Egerton depicts a feminine subjectivity that can allow for

difference within itself and between Others.

This liminality between self and other, between the conservative and the

traditional, makes Egerton's women all the more disturbing to Victorian models of

feminine subjectivity. Rather than clearly conforming to popular ideas of the "New"

Woman or the "Old" Woman, Egerton's heroines disrupt the ideological coherence of

either identity. In doing so, these women paradoxically are more "new" than many New

Women. After all, as Sally Ledger argues, the New Woman's danger to Victorian

notions of identity was her ability to elude stable definition: "The elusive quality of the

New Woman of the fin de siecle clearly marks her as a problem, as a challenge to the

apparently self-identical culture of Victorianism which could not find a consistent

language by which she could be categorized and dealt with. All that was certain was that









she was dangerous, a threat to the status quo" (24). Thus the New Woman, as a cultural

idea, represented the inability of Victorian notions of feminine identity to fully contain

the women they represented, and as such, presented a basic challenge to the discursive

order of Victorian culture that attempted to fix women within the whore/ angel binary.

Consequently, Victorian discourses surrounding the New Woman are marked by what

Linda Dowling calls a "lurid vision of cultural apocalypse . [with a] vocabulary of

crisis" (437). The cultural construct of the New Woman thus figures not only as the

revolt of women from their "proper" places within Victorian society but also the fractures

and fissures in Victorian notions of coherent subjectivity. Egerton's women, with their

movement between the new and the old, further heighten the stakes of that challenge by

making even the New Woman label inadequate. The writers of New Woman fiction, of

which Egerton was classed without her own consent, received a great deal of harsh

criticism because they destabilized normative Victorian constructions of woman: "they

said new things about what women could and should do rather than about what women

were" (A.R. Cunningham 181). New Woman fiction was about the possibility and

potential of a cultural construct that embodied the chaotic potential of social disorder

through its constructed instability as an identity; it was about questioning the unitary

nature of subjectivity. In Keynotes and Discords, Egerton's discussion of woman's

subjectivity makes this instability the focus of the search for feminine selfhood. Hence

the danger that Egerton's female protagonists in Keynotes and Discords represent to

Victorian society lies in the women's potential to contaminate the smooth coherence of a

specifically white, upper-class late-Victorian feminine identity as the author moves them

toward a more mixed feminine subjectivity within and between the two collections.















CONCLUSION

As she develops her model of women's subjectivity, Egerton attempts not to

radically break with Victorian femininity but instead to smudge the edges that confine

women so strictly within the position of non-subject. Egerton's New Women refuse to

pretend that they are entirely new and thus remain always part of the old. They are the

women with gray gloves; they are the women who move on the edges of the discursive

construct of feminine subjectivity and constantly push those edges as they move toward a

space that allows for the expression of their own desires, not the desires that men would

grant them. Egerton's insistence on the mixed nature of her art and the women depicted

in that art thus undermines any attempt to construct a stable, unitary identity the black

and white of the self and Other continually blend into a patchwork of infinite grays.
















LIST OF REFERENCES

Primary Sources

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---, "A Keynote to Keynotes." Ten Contemporaries: Notes Toward Their Definitive
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---, Keynotes. Cambridge: Roberts Brothers, 1893.

Hansson, Laura Marholm. Six Modern Women: Psychological Sketches. Trans. Herione
Ramsden. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1896.

Rev. of Keynotes. Bookman (London) (Dec. 1893): 87.

Schreiner, Olive. Story of African Farm. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

Sharp, William. Rev. of Keynotes. The Academy (17 Feb 1894): 142-3.

"She-Notes Part I." Punch or the London Charivali. 10 March 1894: 109.

"She-Notes Part II." Punch or the London Charivali. 17 March 1894: 129.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Lisa Hager was born in Marietta, Georgia. Thus she, unlike most folks in Atlanta

and particularly East Cobb County, can claim the area as her true, birth home. At age

nine, she met Noel. She lived her whole life in the same house until she moved to Athens,

Georgia, to attend the University of Georgia. At the University, she graduated with a

Bachelor of Arts in English and an Undergraduate Certificate in Women's Studies. In

addition to her curricular activities in Athens, Lisa also became deeply involved in

feminist activism. She then moved to Florida to pursue graduate studies in Victorian

literature at the University of Florida. Currently, Lisa is continuing her studies at the

University of Florida, and hopes to find more time to fight The Man.




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