Decadent Phelps: New Womanhood and the Decentered Self inConfessions of a Wife

Palmer, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-3006-7578, 2016. Decadent Phelps: New Womanhood and the Decentered Self inConfessions of a Wife. Women's Writing, 23 (2), pp. 159-175. ISSN 0969-9082

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Most scholars associate the popular, prolific, and respected writer Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844-1911), who was one of the most important American women writers of her generation, with the mid nineteenth century. In contrast, this essay argues for the salience of her late novel Confessions of a Wife (1902) by situating it within New Woman, aesthetic, and decadent writing. Although Phelps is occasionally treated as a New Woman writer, it is the political New Woman in The Story of Avis or The Silent Partner upon which scholars have focused. In this essay, I read the decadent New Woman interested in exploring sexual gratification and forbidden emotions in Confessions of a Wife. In this late novel, Phelps advances her critique of marriage and exploration of the divided self by engaging in aesthetic motifs like an extravagant throwing of the voice, a welter of references from material culture, and references to Oriental tales. Such aesthetic motifs enable Phelps to foreground the decentered nature of subjectivity and particularly the subjectivity of women who desire sexual gratification, loyal companionship, and intellectual sustenance.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Women's Writing
Creators: Palmer, S.
Publisher: Routledge
Date: 2016
Volume: 23
Number: 2
ISSN: 0969-9082
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 26 Nov 2015 11:40
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 13:57

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