Edited By Anne Goarzin
The Challenges of Katherine Cecil Thurston’s Max (1910)
Katherine Cecil Thurston’s 1910 novel Max1 achieves a subtle interweaving of Franco-Irish connections into a romantic tale that cleverly targets prevailing orthodoxy and prejudice regarding gender, the position of women and artists, personal freedoms, and racist and national bigotry. While the book is often identified as a New Woman novel, its focus is actually much wider than that, and a determinedly political stance underpins its smooth unpicking of several stereotypes promulgated in English press and print. Max is ostensibly popular reading material rather than partisan publication; it is persuasive rather than polemical. Nonetheless, its challenges to convention and to dominant discourses are unwavering and innovative, despite being artistically and skilfully enfolded into the son et lumière of fin-de-siècle Paris through word, picture and close musical linkages – a multi-dimensional, synaesthetic combination that enriches reference and understanding.
The name and history of Cork woman Katherine Cecil Thurston (18 April 1875–5 September 1911) are not widely recognized despite some critical attention in recent years. However, when Max was published in New York, Thurston was famous. The novel was a bestseller on the American market in 1910, and it was not the first time that Thurston had achieved such prominence and such success. Her novels John Chilcote, M.P. (published as The Masquerader in the United States) had been on the New York Times Best Seller list in 1904 and in 1905. Her novel The Gambler (1905), achieved the same status. That was a remarkable record: it was...
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