The New Woman in Nowhere: Feminism and Utopianism at the Fin de Siècle

  • Matthew Beaumont


Reviewing a reissue of Olive Schreiner’s Dreams in 1912, Rebecca West revealingly wrote that ‘The worst of being a feminist is that one has no evidence.’1 The ‘evidence’ for which she was foraging took the form of a female ‘genius’ — in particular a literary prodigy — whose very biography or life’s work could point towards those human possibilities that the abolition of patriarchy would surely realize in the future. This is a suggestive starting-point for a discussion of the politics of the women’s movement at the end of the last century, the years in which Schreiner struggled to articulate women’s personal and social desires. For West’s invocation of an alternative, feminist epistemology, her embattled appeal for an heuristic and proleptic (rather than empirical) type of political ‘proof’, resonates with the search for emancipated interpersonal relations initiated by certain feminists of the fin de siècle.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Beaumont

There are no affiliations available

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