Choices, Dilemmas and Paradoxes: Conflicted Femininity in the Fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers
Vliet, V.M.E. van
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This paper deals with the clash between a woman’s head and heart, which is the central conflict that we find in Dorothy L. Sayers’ life, in her novel Gaudy Night, and in the lives of educated women of the 1920s and 1930s in Britain. Herself an Oxford graduate and a detective novelist, like Harriet, Sayers has experienced certain dilemmas in her life that are arguably aired through the character of Harriet, as well as the other women of the fictional college of Shrewsbury. It would seem that these conflicts are not hers alone. Sayers wrote this novel during the Interwar period. The Long Weekend, as it is also called, was a time of change for women on both a professional and educational level, as well as a personal level. With Gaudy Night, Sayers provided the public with a semi-autobiographical book that is also a recording of British society in the 1920s and 1930s, something that is of great value for those people interested in the changing attitudes concerning women and femininity in the early twentieth century. By providing a brief outline of the history of female detectives and female detective writers, as well as a sketch of British society in the Interwar Period and some information on the rules of detective fiction during this period, a context is provided in which the conflict between head and heart in Sayers’ life and in Gaudy Night can be researched.