Frankenstein’s Monster: Lady Byron and Victorian Feminism

  • Diana Basham


In a well-known essay, Professions for Women (1942), Virginia Woolf chose to discuss two forms of inhibition commonly faced by women writers. According to Woolf, the first of these is easily dealt with. Its removal demands a murderous assault on ‘the Angel in the House’, a Victorian literary allusion here used to signify conformity to acceptably ‘feminine’ codes of discourse and behaviour. The second form of inhibition faced by women writers is less easily approached since it concerns a repressed knowledge of the female body and involves the articulation of tabooed subject matter. Writing in the 1930s, Woolf is still not prepared to approach this ‘Victorian’ inhibition directly. Instead, she mediates it through an imaginative exercise, saying to her reader: ‘I want you to imagine me writing a novel in a state of trance.’ Woolf’s trance-writer is described as ‘letting her imagination sweep unchecked round every rock and cranny of the world that lies submerged in the depths of our unconscious being’. Suddenly, she encounters a shock. In an experience familiar to Victorian ‘somnambules’ and ‘spirit-mediums’ when their productions and reveries were rudely interrupted, this entranced writer finds herself ‘in a state of the most acute and difficult distress’, because ‘she had thought of something, something about the body, about the passions which it was unfitting for her as a woman to say’.4


Scarlet Fever Woman Writer Occult Power Literary Fiction Woman Question 
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© Diana Basham 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Basham

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