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Working GirlsFiction, Sexuality, and Modernity$
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Katherine Mullin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198724841

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198724841.001.0001

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Authorial Integrity and the Threat of Mechanical Writing

Authorial Integrity and the Threat of Mechanical Writing

(p.54) 2 Authorial Integrity and the Threat of Mechanical Writing
Working Girls

Katherine Mullin

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how fictions by Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, George Gissing, Bram Stoker, Arthur Conan Doyle, and James Joyce took telegraphists, then typists, as thrilling new heroines of modernity. It argues that their vocational proficiencies prompted imaginative speculations on the extent and uses of professional, emotional, and sexual knowledge. Those speculations were manifest in tensions between clerical and sexual reproduction, in questions of integrity arising from those tensions, and, ultimately, in plots haunted by sexual blackmail. The preoccupation with blackmail is one particularly conspicuous dramatization of the authorial unease typists and telegraphists inspired. These Working Girls could be seen as allegorical doubles for writers struggling with the pressures of originality and creative integrity. They helped to articulate anxieties about textual pollution in fictions often composed under duress, and betraying fretfulness about plagiarism, commercial expedience, and creative exhaustion in both their plots and their form.

Keywords:   Sexual blackmail, authorial anxiety, modernism, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, George Gissing, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, Bram Stoker

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