“Marionettes Gesticulating on a Badly-lit Stage”: modernist women write Vienna

March 19, 2021


In 1924, ‘Jean Rhys’ came into existence as an author, with the publication of her first short story, ‘Vienne’. This brief tale had personal resonance, recalling a moment of precarious prosperity when Rhys’s husband worked as a translator for the Inter-Allied Military Commission. She depicted a post-war, post-imperial Vienna peddling its own shattered image, a performance with particular consequences for women. In 1934, this image was revisited by Rhys’s modernist contemporary Mary Butts. Her twisting narrative ‘A Lover’ explored the city from afar, as a poignant symbol of collapse – one of T.S. Eliot’s ‘falling towers’ – but also as a vehicle for impersonation, seduction and self-deception. In this recording of a live online lecture that formed part of the BRLSI’s virtual symposium: “A New Worldview: Vienna’s Contribution to European Culture 1890 to 1935,” Dr Faith Binckes from Bath Spa University explores the contexts and shared themes that emerge from these stories, their outsider perspective, and their bold challenge to the glamour of Vienna’s golden age. * Dr Faith Binckes is Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Bath Spa University. She specialises in modernism, women’s writing, and the relationship between literary and periodical culture. Her most recent publications are Hannah Lynch (1859-1904): Irish Writer, Cosmopolitan, New Woman (2019, co-authored with Dr Kathryn Laing) and Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1890s-1920s: The Modernist Period (2019, co-edited with Dr Carey Snyder).

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