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Melanie Williams

Jean-Luc Godard remarked that all you need to make a film is 'a girl and a gun' and the opening sequence of Yield to the Night looks like a textbook illustration of his axiom. Yield to the Night is often mentioned in connection with the contemporary case of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. The film is far from being a straightforward statement of social protest on the part of its makers, which is partly due to the casting of Diana Dors, a notorious and flamboyant British film personality of the 1950s, in the role of Mary Hilton. The realism of the film is a subjective, psychological realism, suggesting the strange and fearful state of mind of the person who knows she will die in a matter of days.

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Jonathan Atkin

In our search for reflections of aesthetic response to the Great War across barriers of experience, the soldier, poet and author Richard Aldington is a good example of John Galsworthy's identification of the human spirit under the pressure of a seemingly mechanised military existence (the ‘herd of life’). He introduces a series of creative men who actually donned a uniform at some stage (though not always willingly) and fought at the front. Gerald Brenan was another fledgling writer in uniform who, like Aldington, felt his soul threatened by the strictures of war. Unlike Brenan, the poet Max Plowman declared his anti-war feelings and suffered a court martial. For Plowman and others, the experience of being within the war machine acted both as a compass towards and a justification of his later anti-war stance. Two further examples of this process concerned possibly the most celebrated poets of the war: Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Robert Graves's concern was with the outward effect of an anti-war protest on the very individuals whom Siegfried Sassoon was supposedly trying to influence.

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Jonathan Atkin

Bertrand Russell was just one man largely thinking and acting alone – and therein rests his reputation. But to what extent – whether in private or public – did similar anti-war concerns to those of Russell and the Bloomsbury Group express themselves among the intelligentsia? In common with Russell, E. M. Forster believed the Great War to be partly due to misdirected destructive energies; forces that could be channelled during times of peace into creative efforts. In his letter to Siegfried Sassoon, he explained that his other hope for the future, though ‘very faint’, was for a League of Nations. This was a hope that Forster shared with both his frequent correspondent Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and with other intellectuals such as the writer and ruralist Edward Carpenter. The emotional response of Carpenter and Dickinson to the war was matched by that of Henry James. In contrast with James, the dry, precise tone of George Bernard Shaw provided perhaps the most prominent intellectual commentary of his time on the war's ebb and flow.

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Women’s writing in contemporary France

New writers, new literatures in the 1990s

Edited by: Gill Rye and Michael Worton

The 1990s witnessed an explosion in women's writing in France, with a particularly exciting new generation of writer's coming to the fore, such as Christine Angot, Marie Darrieussecq and Regine Detambel. This book introduces an analysis of new women's writing in contemporary France, including both new writers of the 1990s and their more established counter-parts. The 1990s was an exciting period for women's writing in France. The novels of Louise Lambrichs are brilliant but troubling psychological dramas focusing on the traumas that inhabit the family romance: incest, sterility, the death those we love and the terrible legacy of mourning. The body of writing produced by Marie Redonnet between 1985 and 2000 is an unusually coherent one. The book explores the possibility of writing 'de la mélancolie' through focusing on the work of Chantal Chawaf, whose writing may be described as 'melancholic autofiction', melancholic autobiographical fiction. It places Confidence pour confidence within Constant's oeuvre as a whole, and argues for a more positive reading of the novel, a reading that throws light on the trajectory of mother-daughter relations in her fiction. Christiane Baroche was acclaimed in France first as a short-story writer. Unable to experience the freedom of their brothers and fathers, beur female protagonists are shown to experience it vicariously through the reading, and the writing of, narratives. Clotilde Escalle's private worlds of sex and violence, whose transgressions are part of real lives, shock precisely because they are brought into the public sphere, expressed in and through writing.

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Women, race and assimilation

The canadianizing 1920s

Series:

Katie Pickles

The chapter discusses the growing importance of ‘canadianisation’ during the 1920s, at which time the IODE was heavily involved with immigration and the canadianisation of immigrants. As canadianisation was based upon mimicking Britain as much as possible, British people were considered the easiest to canadianise. It was the IODE members' place to attempt assimilation in the homes of ‘foreigners’, this being considered ‘women's work’. As female imperialists, they used techniques familiar to those of other patriotic organisations around the Empire, promoting the English language and an imperial curriculum at every opportunity. Furthermore, the standards the IODE applied in rural areas reflected the urban aspirations of its members, and were often based on theories far removed from the realities of lived experience. It was with a great sense of citizenly mission that the IODE attempted to influence immigration and the subsequent life of immigrants.

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Kerry Kidd

Women of Twilight was adapted from the play of the same name by Sylvia Rayman. The play was first performed at the Embassy Theatre, London, in July 1951, going on to the Vaudeville Theatre. Women of Twilight hovers uneasily in the twilight areas of post-war British society, but also in the grey area between sets of competing and unresolved moralities. The film clearly and honestly depicts contemporary abuses, but seems unsure whether to blame respectable social prejudice, more simplistic caricatures of villainy or even, implicitly, the sexual behaviour of the girls themselves. Women of Twilight accuses contemporary Britain of negligence, and lays the blame for these girls' suffering at the door of the contemporary social prejudice and hypocrisy which leaves them with nowhere else to go. The film is consciously melodramatic, casting Helen Allistair as the villain of the piece whose abuse and exploitation are eventually appropriately punished.

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Susan M. Johns

This chapter explores the female patronage of St. Mary's, Clerkenwell by the Munteni family in the second half of the twelfth century, and reveals how land tenure and kin connections could underpin active female patronage over two generations. It also examines the interactions of the female life cycle and social status upon the participation of wives and widows in land transfers. A discussion on female lesser nobility is presented, including the examples of noblewomen who exerted power more formally, perhaps as public office holders. The evidence shows how the roles of lesser noblewomen could resemble those of women of higher status. Women's power to grant land in the context of religious patronage gave them a public role which was considerably magnified if the woman was an heiress or a widow. There is evidence that women could hold public office if they had a claim through patrilineal hereditary right.

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Jonathan Atkin

Many women in the period leading up to the outbreak of the Great War could lay claim to a history of opposition. In the evening of August 4, 1914, during the final hours of peace, a meeting was held at Kingway Hall in London in order to discuss the position of women and the women's movement with regard to the rapidly approaching conflict. This meeting marked a confluence of some of the various leading women's organisations of the day such as the Women's Co-operative Guild, the Women's Freedom League, the Women's Labour League, the National Federation of Women Workers and the sponsor of the meeting, the large National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. This chapter focuses on some of the women who had expressed opposition to the Great War, including Catherine Marshall, Helen Bowen Wedgwood, Sarah Macnaughton, Evadne Price, Enid Bagnold, Mary Agnes Hamilton and Mabel St Clair Stobart.

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Susan M. Johns

The importance of witnessing as a measure of consent to a transaction is particularly difficult to verify, since the references to consent in charters are inconsistent. The historiography of witnessing turns on two axes within broader debates about the nature of charter evidence. There is important evidence to suggest that when husbands and wives acted as joint witnesses they did so as conjoint lords. The presented examples of noblewomen who conjointly witnessed charters with their husbands show conjoint action of husband and wife in their capacity as superior lords for their tenants in their seigneurial court. The ranking of witnesses is an indication of the interaction of gender and status. Women participated as witnesses in land transfers as wives, widows and as part of family groups. By the end of the twelfth century, witnessing had spread through society so that women of all ranks of landholder participated as witnesses.

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Nils Freytag

Research on the continuation of witchcraft beliefs after the end of the witch trials is still in its infancy among German historians. Cultural and denominational distance must have played a prominent role and should not be underestimated, especially as it was used for auxiliary argumentation culminating in the handy and catchy accusation of superstition. Even if exorcists and witch doctors who spread the belief in witchcraft were seen as damaging, superstitious and dangerous in the official verdict, this view only prevailed very haltingly among the local population. Prussian medical authorities, and many doctors in their wake, tried to use their medical and scientific world-view to rationalize the irrational and to explain 'abnormal' beliefs increasingly in terms of mental illness. The Catholic Church and state administration were confronted time and again with petitions and queries regarding witchcraft and magic, which contain many differing views and interpretations.