Edging Women Out: Victorian Novelists, Publishers and Social Change

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Routledge, 2012 - Literary Criticism - 288 pages
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Before about 1840, there was little prestige attached to the writing of novels, and most English novelists were women. By the turn of the twentieth century, "men of letters" acclaimed novels as a form of great literature, and most critically successful novelists were men. In the book, sociologist Gaye Tuchman examines how men succeeded in redefining a form of culture and in invading a white-collar occupation previously practiced mostly by women.

Tuchman documents how men gradually supplanted women as novelists once novel-writing was perceived as potentially profitable, in part because of changes in the system of publishing and rewarding authors. Drawing on unusual data ranging from the archives of Macmillan and company (London) to an analysis of the lives and accomplishments of authors listed in the Dictionary of National Biography, she shows that rising literacy and the centralization of the publishing industry in London after 1840 increased literary opportunities and fostered men’s success as novelists. Men redefined the nature of a good novel and applied a double standard in critically evaluating literary works by men and by women. They also received better contracts than women for novels of equivalent quality and sales. They were able to accomplish this, says Tuchman, because they were to a large extent the culture brokers – the publishers, publishers’ readers, and reviewers of an elite art form.

Both a sociological study of occupational gender transformation and a historical study of writing and publishing, this book will be a rich resource for students of the sociology of culture, literary criticism, and women’s studies.


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1 Gender Segregation and the Politics of Culture
2 Writers and the Victorian Publishing System
3 Novel Writing as an Empty Field
The HighCulture Novel
5 Who Gained from Industrialization?
6 The Invasion or How Women Wrote More for Less
7 Macmillans Contracts with Novelists
8 The Critical Double Standard
9 The Case of the Disappearing Lady Novelists
Appendix A The Samples
Appendix B Additional Tables Relevant to Chapter 6
Appendix C Authors Contracts and Reviews

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About the author (2012)

Gaye Tuchman is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, USA

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