Victorian Fin de Siecle novels featuring actresses as key characters

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Victorian Fin de Siecle novels featuring actresses as key characters

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Fev 12, 2009, 9:54am

I've started planning an essay on perceptions of the actress at the Victorian Fin de Siecle and was wondering if anyone could recommend any primary texts that feature actresses as key characters?

At the moment I'm thinking of The picture of Dorian Gray and The Netherworld by George Gissing but it'd be great if anyone has any ideas. I don't have an actual argument as yet, but think I want to say something about actresses and the new woman or that working class women saw acting as an escape route to high society.

Thanks in advance,


Nov 22, 2009, 11:12am

I'm not sure whether this will count, as it is a French text, but Emile Zola's Nana is about an actress/ high-end prostitute. She ends up with the Prince of Wales, a Russian count and a French Vicomte, so I think it would work out. Edith Wharton's House of Mirth also has the protagonist Lily "acting" in various different ways; private theatricals, and portraits etc. Of course, both of them also have horribly lonely deaths in that good old traditional way that all New Women seem to succumb to.

Nov 23, 2009, 3:22pm

You might want to check out the "Lulu" plays by Frank Wedekind. Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box, 1904) both involve a dancer rather than an actress. Der Kammersänger (The Court-Singer, 1899) by Wedekind is a character study of a female opera singer. All of the female characters seem to meet with less than positive ends, but they are relatively successful in climbing the social ladder.

I know there are a couple of other German/Austrian examples, but I can't think of them off the top of my head right now.

Nov 23, 2009, 3:47pm

Another book, though featuring a singer rather than an actress, is George du Maurier's Trilby.

Then there's Henry James' The Tragic Muse.