Clever Girls and the Literature of Women's Upward Mobility

  • Mary Eagleton

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vii
  2. Mary Eagleton
    Pages 33-56
  3. Mary Eagleton
    Pages 83-106
  4. Mary Eagleton
    Pages 107-134
  5. Mary Eagleton
    Pages 135-163
  6. Mary Eagleton
    Pages 165-188
  7. Mary Eagleton
    Pages 189-202
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 203-208

About this book


This book follows the figure of ‘the clever girl’ from the post-war to the present and focuses on the fiction, plays and memoirs of contemporary British women writers. Spurred on by an ethic of meritocracy, the clever girl is now facing austerity and declining social mobility. Though suggesting optimism, a public discourse of ‘opportunity’, ‘aspiration’ and ‘choice’ is often experienced as an anxious and chancy process. In a wide-ranging study, the book explores the struggle to move away from home and traditional notions of femininity; the persistent problems associated with women’s embodiment; the pressures of class and racial divisions; the new subjectivities of the neoliberal era; and the generational conflict underpinning austerity. The book ends with a consideration of feminism’s place as a phantom presence in this history of clever girls. This study will appeal to readers of contemporary women’s writing and to those interested in what has been one of the dominant social narratives of the post-war period from upward to declining mobility. 


Gender Social mobility Inequality Women's writing Education Margaret Drabble A.S. Byatt Hilary Mantel Zadie Smith

Authors and affiliations

  • Mary Eagleton
    • 1
  1. 1.YorkUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic information