Skip to main content

Modernism and the Women’s Popular Romance in Britain, 1885-1925

Martin Hipsky


List Price: 59.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Today’s mass-market romances have their precursors in late Victorian popular novels written by and for women. In Modernism and the Women’s Popular Romance Martin Hipsky scrutinizes some of the best-selling British fiction from the period 1885 to 1925, the era when romances, especially those by British women, were sold and read more widely than ever before or since.

Recent scholarship has explored the desires and anxieties addressed by both “low modern” and “high modernist” British culture in the decades straddling the turn of the twentieth century. In keeping with these new studies, Hipsky offers a nuanced portrait of an important phenomenon in the history of modern fiction. He puts popular romances by Mrs. Humphry Ward, Marie Corelli, the Baroness Orczy, Florence Barclay, Elinor Glyn, Victoria Cross, Ethel Dell, and E. M. Hull into direct relationship with the fiction of Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, and D. H. Lawrence, among other modernist greats. 

Praise For Modernism and the Women’s Popular Romance in Britain, 1885-1925

“Instead of defining modernism through its differences from mass culture, as critics like A. Huyssens or P. Bürger have tended to do, Hipsky yokes them together very convincingly.”
Cahiers Victoriens et Édouardiens

“Readers will find in Hipsky’s theoretically and historically astute work an important contribution to the ongoing remapping of the early twentieth-century literary terrain. It offers critics a model of how to write about popular fiction in a way that is rigorous and respectful but also alive to the pleasures to be found in texts that can still surprise readers with their modernity.”
The Historian

“Martin Hipsky’s book is a smart and vitally important analysis of the British romance novel and a model of incisive, balanced criticism. It requires us to rethink not only the romance genre, but also the profound ways that genre engages with modernism, melodrama, imperialism, and the history of publishing.”
— Elizabeth Outka, Author of Consuming Traditions: Modernity, Modernism, and the Commodified Authentic

“Martin Hipsky’s definitive account of women’s popular romance is at once a masterful history of the genre, a powerful critique of modernism, and a winning story of the beguiling literary personae that made romance such a scandalous triumph in this moment. Hipsky’s knowledge of these writers is matchless, he is a visionary theorist, and his last pages are nothing short of a must-read rethink of modernism itself.”
— Jesse Matz, Author of The Modern Novel: A Short Introduction

Ohio University Press, 9780821419700, 324pp.

Publication Date: December 6, 2011

About the Author

Martin Hipsky is a professor of English and an associate dean of first- year students at Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the author of numerous articles on British modernism, postmodern fiction, and popular film.