Mad and Modern: A Reading of Emily Holmes Coleman and Antonia White

Kylie ValentineUniversity of New South Wales
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring 2003), 121-147

This article raises questions about the tools available to feminist critics interested in both the politics of mental distress and the particularity of texts, using Virginia Woolf as a preliminary example. Reading two little discussed modernist novels, Emily Holmes Coleman’s The Shutter of Snow (1930) and Antonia White’s Beyond the Glass (1955), this essay establishes a model for analysis that is attentive to the particularities of both mental distress and fiction. The intertextuality between modernism and psychoanalysis that has been recognized elsewhere, the essay argues, emerges again in the texts of White and Coleman, suggesting that these intertextual links occur more frequently and with more diverse effects than has yet been documented. Although this essay’s discussion of these novels is not especially invested in their recuperation as feminist writing or in lamenting their neglect, nonetheless, within the clinical-cultural context of modernism, these novels do suggest that the range of modernist interventions in madness and psychiatry is broader than has been acknowledged and prove themselves worthy of the kind of discussion mobilized around other, canonical modernist texts.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]