eng8 - A Community of Women: Womens Agency and Sexuality in...

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A Community of Women: Women’s Agency and Sexuality in George Egerton’s Keynotes and Discords By Lisa Hager, University of Florida The grey man, after all, had his consolation. “She-Notes Part II,” Punch In so ending its parody of “A Cross Line,” the first story of George Egerton’s Keynotes (1893), Punch revises the short story’s ending by having the maid run off with her mistress’s lover, thus destroying the bond of shared maternal feelings between the two women in Egerton’s original story by making the man the center of attention and the object of sexual competition between the women. In making this revision, “She-Notes” reveals the anxiety with which the conservative Victorian press viewed cross-class intimate relationships between women and, specifically, the extent to which such relationships in new fictional forms of the day shifted narrative focus away from heterosexual courtship plots. Both Egerton’s Keynotes (1893) and her second collection Discords (1894) were reviled by conservatives for exploring such relationships between women. In these stories, George Egerton departs from conventional fiction through her fairly explicit portrayal of women’s sexuality and her stylistic innovations in narrative and character development. Moreover, through these collections, Egerton develops a particular vision of woman’s sexuality that enables her women to move towards relating to other women on the basis of mutuality rather than hierarchy. In
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eng8 - A Community of Women: Womens Agency and Sexuality in...

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