English Faculty Publications


Rebellion in the Metropolis: George Gissing's New Woman Musician

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Gissing and the City: Cultural Crisis and the Making of Books in Late Victorian England


In his depiction of Alma Frothingham, the female protagonist of The Whirlpool, George Gissing intersects two cultural debates of the fin de siècle: the New Woman and female musical genius. Setting his novel against the backdrop of the specular economy of late-nineteenth-century London, Gissing’s engagement with these debates sheds light on the vexed question of his feminism. His New Woman’s increased autonomy and sexual freedom is evident in her pursuit of a professional music career. Alma believes she has control over her own sexuality and the sexual response her performances elicit in others. However, she does not recognize that by marketing her talent, and thereby commodifying herself, she loses the very agency in the public marketplace which she believes she has.

Inclusive pages





Palgrave Macmillan

Place of Publication

New York, NY