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‘The Awakening’ – by Kate Chopin
“This seems to me a higher order of feminism than repeating the story of woman as victim…Kate Chopin gives her female protagonist the central role, normally reserved for Man, in a meditation on identity and culture, consciousness and art.” –From the introduction to the Bantam Classic edition by Marilynne Robinson
‘The Awakening’ aroused a national scandal when it was first published in 1899. This beautiful and lyric novella proposed options for the adult female that were considered scandalous at the time of its publication, and continue to cause discomfort today. In Edna Pontellier’s search for self-discovery and understanding, we can find echoes of the proposals of the Transcendentalists, the freedom of Modern Man and the arguments of early feminists. The sensual and seductive world of New Orleans at the turn of the century offers characters of decadence and artistic hunger that bring Edna’s struggle into sharp relief. Our discussion will include consideration of love in a society that is bent on strict moral code, and reflections on how the concerns of this story have descended into our contemporary age: what does it mean to be a self-determinate being in our age?