Posted by Helen on December 08, 1997 at 07:10:54:
In response to A Good Trollope, written by Ken on December 05, 1997 at 15:47:25
] I never hear or see this author mentioned but that I am irresistably reminded of the 19th century bishop who confided that he loved nothing better than to curl up in bed with a good Trollope (-;
Maybe he meant the mother ;-)
Actually, I have strong feelings about Trollope - not so much about his work but about its reputation. Why is he in the canon as the C19th minor novelist, when there are lots of others who write just as well if not better than he does? Because he's a man, that's why... and not just a man, but a Man of Letters. Because he writes about politics (which no-one now finds interesting)and questions of power, and writes with a satirical, masculine eye about life in a cathedral town, putting forward a "common-sense" value system for men, and valorising those women who are mere beautiful domestic self-sacrificers: all others are satirized to a greater or lesser extent.
There are so many women writers during this period whose prose and vision of society is at least equal to, if not better than, Trollope's. But when the canon of literature was being constructed, these women were dismissed: some wrote "merely domestic fiction"; others wrote to make money, and therefore their work is perceived to have suffered (eg. Mrs. Oliphant); others wrote "issue novels" and therefore are deemed not to have mastered "pure fiction" (eg. Mrs. Humphrey Ward); others - and this, to the men who devised the canon, was the unforgiveable crime - had an overtly religious background to their works.
Those women who did make it into the canon did so as exceptions - who like Austen, can be largely interpreted without reference to a religious agenda, (and during this period she was largely seen as a cosy domestic novelist anyway), or who like George Eliot, or the Bronte sisters, showed their acceptance of the view that male writing was superior to female by adopting male names and largely condemning other female writers (so that they could prove themselves the exceptions).
I'm not the most violent of feminist literary critics (otherwise I wouldn't be devoting my life to C16th male love poetry) but this blatant chauvinism really makes me mad (Reader: really, Helen? I'd never have guessed). It's so easy to accept the judgement of the "Men of Letters" who devised the canon of literature worthy to be studied at the turn of the century, that he is the only one of these lesser novelists worth reading, and blind oneself to the excellent writing a large number of women were producing during this period.
Sorry for the blast of fury, Trollope always does this to me...
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