Engendering New Motherhood:
Tactile Exchange in
George Egerton’s Keynotes (1893) and Flies in Amber (1905)
George Egerton’s Keynotes (1893) is a seminal text of the New Woman movement at the fin de siècle and has garnered significant critical attention over the last four decades. Egerton went on to publish four more volumes of short fiction, with decreasing popularity, the last being Flies in Amber (1905). This article addresses the shortage of scholarship on Egerton’s later writing by assessing the consistency with which she invokes moments of touch and object exchange as a means to radicalise motherhood in two popular and well-known early stories, “A Cross Line” and “The Spell of the White Elf” (Keynotes), and a less-known later story “Mammy” (Flies in Amber). Through tactile exchange, Egerton’s female protagonists establish a maternal network that challenges patriarchal hypocrisy and preserves their New Womanhood. By understanding Egerton’s valorisation of maternity as a “New Motherhood,” this article challenges claims of essentialism and accusations of conventionality in Egerton’s writing while reinstating the cultural value of her later publications.
George Egerton; tactile exchange; touch; motherhood; popular; New Woman.
Date of Acceptance: 5 July 2021
Date of Publication: 8 July 2021
Double Blind Peer Reviewed
Sigley, Isobel. 2021. “Engendering New Motherhood: Tactile Exchange in George Egerton’s Keynotes (1893) and Flies in Amber (1905).” Victorian Popular Fictions, 3.1 (Spring): 68-82.