The fragmentary subject

feminist history, official records, and self-representation

Angela Woollacott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


Official reports by First World War women welfare supervisors, women police and patrols, have the potential to reveal tensions women were working within and against in these unprecedented careers. Not usually considered within the genre of autobiography, reports which women wrote of their work for the consumption of their superiors define the construction of their official selves through their delings with their subjects - working-class women. Drawing upon feminist literary theory concerning subjectivity and self-representation enabled me to examine these documents as textual constructions of necessarily fragmentary subjectivities. Reading these texts in terms of self-representation and the indirct construction of subjectivity allowed me to recognise women's strategies allow us to see specific instances of women's creative resistances, complicity and willful self-formulation. In this essay I call for dialogue and reciprocity between feminist historians and feminist literary critics. While feminist historians can fruitfully use literary theory, such as that relating to subjectivity and self-representation, other feminist scholars can benefit from examinations of fragmentary constructions of the self by historical subjects in specific historical circumstances, especially the ways women subjects have negotiated within masculinist systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-339
Number of pages11
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1998

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