Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 217
Madame Bovary (1857), by Gustave Flaubert, is one of the important early works of French realism. The novel offers a brilliant and fairly sympathetic portrait of a shrewd and ambitious woman who attempts to better her circumstances by marrying and manipulating a country physician.
The Awakening (1899), Kate Chopin's long neglected novel of feminine self-consciousness offers a portrait of a woman defying conventional morality, including marital fidelity and taboos against miscegenation.
Sister Carrie (1900), Theodore Dreiser's first novel, depicts an immoral, self-serving woman with an unusual degree of sympathy.
Margaret Fleming (1890), by James A. Herne, is the first genuinely realistic play in America. Although now considered sentimental, it depicts a woman who defies convention in undertaking to care for the illegitimate child of her husband.
The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1913) may be more about George Bernard Shaw, its author, than it is about Ibsen, but it gives considerable insight into how Shaw and the British intelligentsia were attempting to transform theater into a vehicle for social improvement. The work grew out of a lecture Shaw gave in 1890, the same year that Ibsen published Hedda Gabler.
Women in Modern Drama: Freud, Feminism, and European Theater at the Turn of the Century (1989), by Gail Finney, offers an excellent survey of the depiction of women in European drama towards the end of Ibsen's career.