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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 16, 2015

“What are you like to come home to?” Domesticity in Postwar British Women’s Poetry and Fiction, 1945–1960

Ingo Berensmeyer
From the journal Anglia


This essay presents readings of a wide range of British women’s poetry and fiction of the immediate postwar period (1945–1960) that focus on the topic of domesticity. It explores the capacities of literary texts to intervene in a slow process of cultural change in gendered attitudes towards domestic life, home-making and notions of women’s place in the home. To illustrate the ‘nadir of British feminism’ (M. Pugh) as a structure of feeling, it also draws on advertisements and marital advice books from the 1950s. While poems by Stevie Smith, Elizabeth Jennings and Denise Levertov respond to the pressures of domesticity, novels by Elizabeth Taylor (At Mrs Lippincote’s) and Josephine Leslie (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) point towards what might be called ‘alternative domesticities’, however imaginary. The essay argues that the possibility of women’s personal freedom (within or beyond domestic settings) in the age of the ‘angry young men’ had to be translated into the defamiliarising strains of the ‘female Gothic’ and could only be imagined in the form of comic supernatural romance or satirical verse.

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Published Online: 2015-9-16
Published in Print: 2015-9-1

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