Spectacular Confessions

Autobiography, Performative Activism and the Sites of Suffrage
Green, Barbara
Date published: 
January 1998

Bringing together the fields of literary criticism, cultural studies, and women's studies, Spectacular Confessions is the only book-length study devoted to a diverse array of suffragist writings. Author Barbara Green shares with the reader a neglected well of resources which includes prison diaries, letters, pamphlets, novels, journal essays, and feminist histories, in order to investigate the cultural function of writings produced by militant suffragettes in Edwardian England. Green describes these writings as examples of a modernist autobiographical gesture - the 'spectacular confession' - that crosses generic borders to blend the documentary with the performative, offering dramatic displays of self-representation. The writings of suffragettes like Elizabeth Robins, Lady Constance Lytton, Emily Wilding Davison and of feminist onlookers like Djuna Barnes and Virginia Woolf are examined to reveal how they gave female spectacularity a variety of subversive meanings. In addition, Green explores the complex connections between the writings of suffragettes and the dominant discourses of modernity. A rare, illuminating volume, Spectacular Confessions is both informative and a fascinating read.