Unbecoming Women unpacks the ideological baggage of the Bildungsroman and turns to conduct books and vels of development by women for a new poetics of growing up. In subtle readings of works by Frances Burney, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and George Eliot, Fraiman argues that a heroine's progress toward masterful selfhood is by means assured. Focusing on counternarratives in which girls do t enter the world so much as flounder on its doorstep, Fraiman suggests that becoming a woman involves de-formation, disorientation, and the loss of authority. Written with grace and theoretical mastery, Unbecoming Women emphasises the dialectical as well as subversive aspects of a genre long considered homogeneous. The result is a compelling contribution to feminist genre criticism that, charting female destiny in Georgian and Victorian texts, also postmodernizes the vel of development.
Susan Fraiman is professor of English at the University of Virginia. Her Columbia University Press publications include Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins (2017) and Cool Men and the Second Sex (2003).