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About this product
- DescriptionBorn Eileen Mary Challans in London in 1905, Mary Renault wrote six successful contemporary vels before turning to the historical classical fiction for which she is best kwn. While Renault's vels are still highly regarded, her life and work have never been completely examined. Caroline Zilboorg seeks to remedy this in The Masks of Mary Renault by exploring Renault's identity as a gifted writer and a sexual woman in a society in which neither of these identities was clear or easy. Although Renault's life was anything but ordinary, this fact has often been obscured by her writing. The daughter of a doctor, she grew up comfortably and attended a boarding school in Bristol. She received her English degree from St. High's College in Oxford in 1928, but she chose t to pursue an academic career. Instead, she decided to attend the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, where she trained to be a nurse. In 1939, she was assigned to Winford Emergency Hospital in Bristol and briefly worked with Dunkirk evacuees. She went on to work in the Radcliffe Infirmary's brain surgery ward and was there until 1945. It was during her nurse's training that Renault met Julie Mullard, who became her lifelong companion. This important lesbian relationship both resolved and posed many problems for Renault, t the least of which was how she was to write about issues at once intensely personal and socially challenging. In 1939, Renault published her first vel under a pseudonym in order to mask her identity. It was a time when she was struggling t only with her vocation (nursing or writing), but also with her sexual identity in the social and moral context of English life during the war. In 1948, Renault left England with Mullard for South Africa and never returned. It was in South Africa that she made the shift from her early contemporary vels of manners to the mature historical vels of Hellenic life. The classical settings allowed Renault to mask material too explosive to deal with directly while simultaneously giving her an academic freedom to write about subjects vital to her - among them war, peace, career, women's roles, female and male homosexuality, and bisexuality. Renault's reception complicates an understanding of her achievement, for she has a special status within the academic community, where she is both widely read and little written about. Her interest in sexuality and specifically in homosexuality and bisexuality, in fluid gender roles and identities, warrants a rereading and reevalaution of her work. Eloquently written and extensively researched, The Masks of Mary Renault should be of special value to anyone interested in women's studies or English literature.
- Author BiographyCaroline Zilboorg is a member of the English faculty at Cambridge University. She is the author or editor of several books, including American Prose and Poetry in the Twentieth Century and Women's Firsts.
- Author(s)Caroline Zilboorg
- PublisherUniversity of Missouri Press
- Date of Publication31/05/2001
- SubjectBiography: Literary
- Place of PublicationMissouri
- Country of PublicationUnited States
- ImprintUniversity of Missouri Press
- Content Notebibliography, index, 13 illustrations
- Weight581 g
- Width156 mm
- Height235 mm
- Spine26 mm
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