Front cover of Women at Odds: Indifference, Antagonism, and Progress in Late Victorian Literature, by Riya Das, featuring a Victorian-era image of a woman in a dark blue dress and hat, turning haughtily away from another woman in the background.

Women at Odds

Indifference, Antagonism, and Progress in Late Victorian Literature

Riya Das

210 pp. 6 x 9
EXPECTED Pub Date: September, 2024

Subjects: Victorian Studies
Literary Studies, 19th Century
Literary Studies, British & Irish

Preorder Hardcover $69.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1572-2

“Das reframes the conversation around social dynamics among women in Victorian fiction, presenting a fresh perspective on oft-studied texts. Thought-provoking close readings informed by a historicist lens on gender, class, race, and other forms of difference make Women at Odds essential reading for scholars of Victorian literature, gender, and narrative.” —Lise Shapiro Sanders, author of Consuming Fantasies: Labor, Leisure, and the London Shopgirl, 1880–1920

Women at Odds builds on and complicates existing critical conversations in Victorian and feminist studies. Das defies the long-held assumption that solidarity and collaboration are the basis for women’s progress, highlighting instead how some women are marginalized to enable the advancement of others.” —Rachel Hollander, author of Narrative Hospitality in Late Victorian Fiction: Novel Ethics

In Women at Odds, Riya Das demonstrates the limitations of female solidarity for the New Woman in Victorian society. On the one hand, feminist antagonism disrupts the status quo in unanticipated ways, and it helps open new domestic and professional pathways for women. On the other hand, the urban professional New Woman’s rhetoric recycles distinctly sexist, racist, and classist conventions, thereby bringing middle-class Englishwomen dialectically—what Das terms “retro-progressively”—into the labor pool of the British empire.

While foregrounding the figure of the New Woman as a white imperialist reformer, Das illustrates how the New Woman movement detaches itself from the domestic politics of female friendship. In works by George Eliot, George Gissing, Olive Schreiner, Bram Stoker, and others, antagonism and indifference enable the fin de siècle New Woman to transcend traditionally defined roles and fashion social progress for herself at the expense of femininities she excludes as “other.” By contesting the critical notion of solidarity as the only force that brings Victorian women’s narratives to fruition, Women at Odds reveals the troubled but effective role of antagonistic and indifferent reformist politics in loosening rigid social structures for privileged populations. 

Riya Das (she/her) is Assistant Professor of English at Prairie View A&M University, where she specializes in nineteenth-century British literature, gender, and empire. She is currently editing the first-ever critical edition of Mona Caird’s feminist novel The Daughters of Danaus. She was awarded an NEH grant to support this book. 



Introduction    Wives and Daughters Leaving Home: Indifferent and Antagonistic New Women
Chapter 1        An Unsympathetic Network: Female Defiance as Narrative Force in Daniel Deronda
Chapter 2        Antagonistic Boundaries: The Woman Professional’s Retro-Progress in The Odd Women
Chapter 3        Settler Colonial Feminism: Unsustainable Indifference and Antagonism in The Story of an African Farm
Chapter 4        In Solidarity with Empire: The Professional Wife and Mother in Dracula
Conclusion      Antagonism and Indifference: Twenty-First-Century Affordances

Works Cited

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