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True to Me Always: An Analysis of Women’s Magazine Fiction

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Abstract

This chapter explores the plot structures and images of society contained in the fiction of low-priced magazines for women. It is suggested that the writers’ world-view vacillates between heroic individualism and fatalism. There is no evidence of any sustained radical critique of society, despite the choice of the 1930s as the period from which the magazines were sampled. In the absence of any close correspondence with models from the élite novel, attention is drawn to the problem of how the popular writer aims the stories to be read. For this reason, one story is analysed in depth, indicating the devices used to signal the preferred meaning of character, plot action, etc. The particular function of domestic stories is to provide ‘pastoral’ advice on how life can and should be lived.

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Notes

  1. See, for example, L. Goldmann, Pour une Sociologie du Roman (Paris: Gallimard, 1965),

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  2. and P. Bourdieu, ‘Intellectual field and cultural project’ in M. F. D. Young (ed.), Knowledge and Control ( London: Collier-Macmillan, 1971 ), pp. 161–88.

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  3. V. Propp, ‘Morphology of the Folk-Tale’, Supplement to International Journal of American Linguistics, XXIV, 4, part 3, Indiana University Research Center; and ‘Fairy Tale Transformations’, in L. Matejka and K. Pomorska, Readings in Russian Poetics ( Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971 ), pp. 94–114.

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  4. This criticism was first formulated by Lévi-Strauss. See C. Lévi-Strauss, La Structure et La Forme (Paris: Cahiers de L’Institut de Science économique Appliquée, 99, 1960) Série M. No. 7, pp. 25–33.

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  5. A. Swan, My Life ( London: Ivor Nicholson and Watson, 1934 ).

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  6. T. Elsaesser, ‘Tales of Sound and Fury’, in (no ed.) Melodrama in the Cinema ( Glasgow: Glasgow Film Theatre, 1977 ).

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  7. G. Orwell, ‘Boys’ Weeklies’ (1938), reprinted in Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, I (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980) 505–31;

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  8. R. Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy ( London: Chatto and Windus, 1957 ), pp. 94–104;

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  9. R. Roberts, The Classic Slum (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1971) Chapter 8; A. Swan, My Life.

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  10. The Hulton Readership Survey, compiled by J. W. Hobson and M. Henry (London: The Hulton Press, 1947).

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  11. C. L. White, Women’s Magazines ( London: Michael Joseph, 1970 ), pp. 23–57.

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  12. P. J. Keating, The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971) discusses the use of ‘cryptoproletarians’ in Victorian novels.

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  13. T. Parsons, The Social System (New York: Free Press, 1951 ) Chapter X, uses this representation of illness.

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  14. R. Williams, The Country and the City (London: Paladin, 1975) has recently traced this theme running through the major literary tradition.

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  15. W. Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral ( London: Chatto and Windus, 1950 ), p. 19.

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  16. See M. Foucault, Madness and Civilisation ( London: Tavistock, 1967 ).

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© 1984 Rosalind Brunt, Bridget Fowler, David Glover, Jerry Palmer, Martin Jordin, Stuart Laing, Adrian Mellor, Christopher Pawling

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Fowler, B. (1984). True to Me Always: An Analysis of Women’s Magazine Fiction. In: Pawling, C. (eds) Popular Fiction and Social Change. Palgrave, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-15856-0_5

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