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Shame, Marie Corelli, and the "New Woman" in Fin-de-Siecle Britain

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Abstract


  • Phenomenally popular fin-de-siecle celebrity Marie Carelli, in her fictional

    and nonfictional writing, repeatedly affirmed that the era's iconic

    New Woman represented not the promise but the threat of "modernity."

    Modernity, as represented by the New Woman, did not extend the civilizing

    process. Rather, it jeopardized it. By challenging rules of behavior that

    were integral to the civilized state, the New Woman threatened a return

    to a previous state of barbarianism. Indeed, by refusing to allow a proper

    feeling of womanly shame to regulate her thoughts and actions, this icon of

    modernity seemed to counter Norbert Elias's understanding of the symbiotic

    relationship between advancing frontiers of shame and the progression

    of civilization. Given that this New Woman's improper behavior threatened

    to destabilize English society and interrupt British imperialism-Britain's

    international role of bringing "civilisation" to others-as self-appointed

    "guardian of the public conscience," Carelli took it upon herself to attempt

    to shame her. More accurately, she took it upon herself to elicit "proper"

    feelings of guilt and shame from her readers, particularly her female readers,

    whose sympathies dared to stray too closely toward the damaging feminist

    aspirations of the unseemly and unwomanly New Woman, and the

    decivilizing process she apparently championed.

    Carelli unambiguously opposed what she saw as the transgressive New

    Woman's decivilizing drive; nevertheless her writing demonstrates her era's

    accommodation of a complex attitude toward the notion of human progress

    and its inevitability or otherwise. By the early decades of the twentieth

    century, Britain had reached what Carelli termed a state of "over-ripe

    civilisation." So, while this celebrity writer railed against the New Woman's

    threatened instigation of a decivilizing process, she simultaneously,

    and somewhat paradoxically, promoted a limited reversal of civilization.

    Importantly, she only advocated a partial, controlled rolling back of "progress"

    to a time when human relations were not threatened by an attempted

    obliteration of sexual difference. In the endeavor to restore civilization to a

    state of balance-to reverse cultural change-Corelli worked to reinstate

    the frontier of shame: specifically, womanly shame. Given her rule as

    "queen of the bestsellers" for almost three decades-given that her writing

    was such an integral and ongoing part of the era's public debate-her

    large body of work casts light on just how accepted her literary technique

    of using emotions to attempt to effect wider cultural change was at the end

    of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.

Publication Date


  • 2014

Citation


  • Crozier-De Rosa, S. M. 2014, 'Shame, Marie Corelli, and the "New Woman" in Fin-de-Siecle Britain', in A. Brooks & D. Lemmings (eds), Emotions and Social Change: Historical and Sociological Perspectives, Taylor & Francis, New York. pp. 252-268.

International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13


  • 9780415856058

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2227&context=lhapapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1222

Book Title


  • Emotions and Social Change: Historical and Sociological Perspectives

Start Page


  • 252

End Page


  • 268

Place Of Publication


  • New York

Abstract


  • Phenomenally popular fin-de-siecle celebrity Marie Carelli, in her fictional

    and nonfictional writing, repeatedly affirmed that the era's iconic

    New Woman represented not the promise but the threat of "modernity."

    Modernity, as represented by the New Woman, did not extend the civilizing

    process. Rather, it jeopardized it. By challenging rules of behavior that

    were integral to the civilized state, the New Woman threatened a return

    to a previous state of barbarianism. Indeed, by refusing to allow a proper

    feeling of womanly shame to regulate her thoughts and actions, this icon of

    modernity seemed to counter Norbert Elias's understanding of the symbiotic

    relationship between advancing frontiers of shame and the progression

    of civilization. Given that this New Woman's improper behavior threatened

    to destabilize English society and interrupt British imperialism-Britain's

    international role of bringing "civilisation" to others-as self-appointed

    "guardian of the public conscience," Carelli took it upon herself to attempt

    to shame her. More accurately, she took it upon herself to elicit "proper"

    feelings of guilt and shame from her readers, particularly her female readers,

    whose sympathies dared to stray too closely toward the damaging feminist

    aspirations of the unseemly and unwomanly New Woman, and the

    decivilizing process she apparently championed.

    Carelli unambiguously opposed what she saw as the transgressive New

    Woman's decivilizing drive; nevertheless her writing demonstrates her era's

    accommodation of a complex attitude toward the notion of human progress

    and its inevitability or otherwise. By the early decades of the twentieth

    century, Britain had reached what Carelli termed a state of "over-ripe

    civilisation." So, while this celebrity writer railed against the New Woman's

    threatened instigation of a decivilizing process, she simultaneously,

    and somewhat paradoxically, promoted a limited reversal of civilization.

    Importantly, she only advocated a partial, controlled rolling back of "progress"

    to a time when human relations were not threatened by an attempted

    obliteration of sexual difference. In the endeavor to restore civilization to a

    state of balance-to reverse cultural change-Corelli worked to reinstate

    the frontier of shame: specifically, womanly shame. Given her rule as

    "queen of the bestsellers" for almost three decades-given that her writing

    was such an integral and ongoing part of the era's public debate-her

    large body of work casts light on just how accepted her literary technique

    of using emotions to attempt to effect wider cultural change was at the end

    of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.

Publication Date


  • 2014

Citation


  • Crozier-De Rosa, S. M. 2014, 'Shame, Marie Corelli, and the "New Woman" in Fin-de-Siecle Britain', in A. Brooks & D. Lemmings (eds), Emotions and Social Change: Historical and Sociological Perspectives, Taylor & Francis, New York. pp. 252-268.

International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13


  • 9780415856058

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2227&context=lhapapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1222

Book Title


  • Emotions and Social Change: Historical and Sociological Perspectives

Start Page


  • 252

End Page


  • 268

Place Of Publication


  • New York