Early Works by Modern Women Writers: Woolf, Bowe, Mansfield, Cather, and Stein

Author: Landon, Lana Hartman
Modernism encompasses a range of technique, subject matter, and experimentation – some experiments successful, others near misses, but always worthy of attention. Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Katherine Mansfield, Willa Cather and Gertrude Stein represent five important points along that range. The purpose in starting with the first books by these authors establishes two arguments. First, these early works elucidate the later, more sophisticated work that follows. Second, the works from the beginning of each woman’s career enhance the understanding of modernism from the inside out; that is, close examination of five writing careers provides more insight into modernism than imposing a generic definition upon them. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate each of these writers has a coherent body of work rather than a successful series of works.


“In this substantive, groundbreaking study … the authors fulfill the promise of their abstract. They do indeed show how the early works of five American and British women authors are predictive of the later bodies of work; and equally important, they use the early works of these five authors to compose a definition of modernism … This is a fresh and original approach, and one that every reader of modern fiction will want to have; one that every reader of women’s literature will particularly enjoy. By valuing the works of women modernists, the authors help to solidify the place of women writers in literary history, and thereby invite new generations of women authors to open those doors, to create their own voices and works.” – Marilyn Kallet, Hodges Chair for Distinguished Teaching, University of Tennessee

“This book emphasizes early works by these authors [Woolf, Bowen, Mansfield, Cather, and Stein] in order to show how the authors’ creative reactions to modern problems helped these women to discover modernist techniques for themselves and to continue working out, throughout their careers, the personal solutions that helped them get started as the kinds of writers we now call modernist … This study relates fictional texts to the authors’ lives without an excessive reliance on merely biographical readings … Drs. Landon and Smith remind us why modernism mattered when it came into being and remind us of some reasons that it still matters a great deal. In this sense, the book is equally useful to a scholarly audience and to an audience of students …” – Professor Marshall Bruce Gentry, Georgia College & State University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface by Mary M. Brown
I. Virginia Woolf: Beginnings
II. Elizabeth Bowen
III. Katherine Mansfield
IV. Willa Cather
V. Gertrude Stein
VI. Virginia Woolf: In the House of Modernism
Works Cited