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A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists From Brontë to Lessing

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Readers of this new, enlarged edition of the classic feminist study of British women novelists will find themselves delighted by Elaine Showalter's astute and acerbic critical intelligence. Showalter is one of the few scholars who can make her readers rush to their bookshelves to refute her point, or simply to experience again Jane Eyre, The Mill on the Floss, or the bitte Readers of this new, enlarged edition of the classic feminist study of British women novelists will find themselves delighted by Elaine Showalter's astute and acerbic critical intelligence. Showalter is one of the few scholars who can make her readers rush to their bookshelves to refute her point, or simply to experience again Jane Eyre, The Mill on the Floss, or the bitterly illuminating stories of Katherine Mansfield. Her chief innovation is to place the works of famous women writers beside those of the minor or forgotten, building a continuity of influence and inspiration as well as a more complete picture of the social conditions in which women's books have been produced. She has added a new introduction recounting, with justifiable pleasure, how daring and controversial her study seemed when it first appeared in 1977 (and how many enemies it made her). In an afterword, she touches on more recent developments in the women's novel in Britain, including the influence of the dazzling Angela Carter. --Regina Marler


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Readers of this new, enlarged edition of the classic feminist study of British women novelists will find themselves delighted by Elaine Showalter's astute and acerbic critical intelligence. Showalter is one of the few scholars who can make her readers rush to their bookshelves to refute her point, or simply to experience again Jane Eyre, The Mill on the Floss, or the bitte Readers of this new, enlarged edition of the classic feminist study of British women novelists will find themselves delighted by Elaine Showalter's astute and acerbic critical intelligence. Showalter is one of the few scholars who can make her readers rush to their bookshelves to refute her point, or simply to experience again Jane Eyre, The Mill on the Floss, or the bitterly illuminating stories of Katherine Mansfield. Her chief innovation is to place the works of famous women writers beside those of the minor or forgotten, building a continuity of influence and inspiration as well as a more complete picture of the social conditions in which women's books have been produced. She has added a new introduction recounting, with justifiable pleasure, how daring and controversial her study seemed when it first appeared in 1977 (and how many enemies it made her). In an afterword, she touches on more recent developments in the women's novel in Britain, including the influence of the dazzling Angela Carter. --Regina Marler

30 review for A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists From Brontë to Lessing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)

    Ebook, read on Open Library. Think of this as a literature seminar with a really interesting professor who at times will read you passages of books and then tie them all back to the central theme. In addition, you'll get information about the society the books were written in, as well as lots of biographies of various writers. If you haven't read some of the literature (Wuthering Heights, Lady Audley's Secret, etc.) then there will be some spoilers. This however is a good thing, because the focus Ebook, read on Open Library. Think of this as a literature seminar with a really interesting professor who at times will read you passages of books and then tie them all back to the central theme. In addition, you'll get information about the society the books were written in, as well as lots of biographies of various writers. If you haven't read some of the literature (Wuthering Heights, Lady Audley's Secret, etc.) then there will be some spoilers. This however is a good thing, because the focus here is using those stories as examples, and if the author was coy with the plot (and thus not spoiled anything) we'd not be able to understand the reference. Also this is extremely helpful because some of the more obscure books referenced are not going to be easy to find, even with Gutenberg, and so you don't mind having the plot explained. I don't know that I agree with everything Showalter has said about some of the books and authors - but I can say that almost every other page I was either writing down a quote or piece of history that interested me, or I was jotting down another name to the list of women authors I needed to look up and learn more about. The book will practically write you a To Read list, some of which I'm sure are core women's studies lit I never got around to reading. Contents I. The Female Tradition II. The Feminine Novelists and The Will To Write III. The Double Critical Standard and the Feminine Novel IV. Feminine Heroines: Charlote Bronte and George Eliot V. Feminine Heroes: The Woman's Man VI. Subverting the Feminine Novel: Sensationalism and Feminine Protest VII. The Feminist Novelists VIII. Women Writers and the Suffrage Movement IX. The Female Aesthetic X. Virginia Woolf and the Flight into Androgyny XI. Beyond the Female Aesthetic: Contemporary Women Novelists Biographical Appendix and Selected Bibliography Showalter provides many examples from books and contemporary publications to support her statements, but quoting all of that in full would be even more lengthy. At the same time, I also want to save many quotes that I personally was interested in. (I really loved the Woman in White/Lady Audley comparison discussion in Ch 6.) Quotes: Acknowledgments, p vii:"In the atlas of the English novel, women's territory is usually depicted as desert bounded by mountains on four sides: the Austen peaks, the Bronte cliffs, the Eliot range, and the Woolf hills. This book is an attempt to fill in the terrain between these literary landmarks and to construct a more reliable map from which to explore the achievements of English women novelists." Chapter 1, The Female Tradition p 11: "...This book is an effort to describe the female literary tradition in the English novel from the generation of the Brontes to the present day, and to show how the development of this tradition is similar to the development of any literary subculture." "....what Germaine Greer calls the "phenomenon of the transcience of female literary fame"; "almost uninterruptedly since the Interregnum, a small group of women have enjoyed dazzling literary prestige during their own lifetimes, only to vanish without trace from the records of posterity." p. 18: - "The works of Mary Wollstonecraft were not widely read by the Victorians due to the scandals surrounding her life." p. 20: "...even the most devout women novelists, such as Charlotte Yonge and Dinah Craik, were aware that the "feminine" novel also stood for feebleness, ignorance, prudery, refinement, propriety, and sentimentality, while the feminine novelist was portrayed as vain, publicity-seeking, and self-assertive." p. 21: "...The novelists publicly proclaimed, and sincerely believed, their antifeminism. By working in the home, by preaching submission and self-sacrifice, and by denouncing female self-assertiveness, they worked to atone for their own will to write. ...Victorian women were not accustomed to choosing a vocation; womanhood was a vocation in itself." p. 25: "Coarseness" was the term Victoians readers used to rebuke unconventional language in women's literature. It could refer to the "damns" in Jane Eyre, the dialect in Wuthering Heights, the slang of Rhoda Broughton's heroines, the colloquialisms in Aurora Leigh, or more generally to the moral tone of a work, such as the "vein of perilous voluptuousness" one alert critic detected in Adam Bede. Chapter 2, The Feminine Novelists and The Will To Write p. 37: "...This uniformity of social origin is true of English writers generally, but is more extreme in the case of women, who were even less likely than men to be the children of the laboring poor. Women novelists were overwhelmingly the daughters of the upper middle class, the aristocracy, and the professions. ...Tess Dubeyfield did not write fiction.Yet the comments of critics in Victorian journals give the impression that every woman in England was shouldering her pen." p. 37-8: "...anyone who turns to the publishers' advertisements at the back of a Victorian novel will soon be aware that scores of books have disappeared along with their authors. For example my copy of Mrs. Craik's A Noble Life (published by Hurst & Blackett, 1866) who are Mrs. G. Gretton, author of The Englishwoman in Italy; Beatrice Whitby, author of five novels; who are Mabel Hart, E. Frances Poynter, and Martha Walker Freer? They have all slipped through the literary historian's net, as have half of the women writers listed month by month in the Englishwoman's Review in the 1870s." p. 40: "...it is important to remember that "female dominance" was always in the eye of the male beholder. The Victorian illusion of enormous numbers [of female writers] came from overreaction of male competitors, the exaggerated visibility of the woman writer, the overwhelming success of a few novels in the 1840s, the conjunction of feminist themes in fiction with with feminist activism in England, and the availability of biographical information about the novelists, which made them living heroines, rather than sets of cold and inky initials." p. 42: "The classical education was the intellectual dividing line between men and women; intelligent women aspired to study Greek and Latin with a touching faith that such knowledge would open the world of male power and wisdom to them. ...It is a commonplace for an ambitious heroine in a feminine novel to make mastery of the classics the initial goal in her search for truth." p. 44: "...It was not until much later that women writers began to understand that the classical curriculum and the conventional schoolroom offered a very limited education, and to appreciate that their own efforts may even have given them an advantage over their brothers." p. 47: "...Furthermore, women writers were likely to be dependent on their earnings and contributing to the support of their families, and not, as has been conjectured, indulging themselves at the expense of fathers and husbands." p. 61: "...One of the distinguishing characteristics of the female novelists is the seriousness with which they took their domestic roles. ...But neither condescension nor indignation is warranted. Up until about 1880 feminine novelists felt a sincere wish to integrate and harmonize the responsibilities of their personal and professional lives. Moreover, they believed that such a reconciliation of opposites would enrich their art and deepen their understanding." p. 70: "...It was not exactly that critics revered motherhood and its wisdom, but that they regarded mothers as normal women; the unmarried and the childless had already a certain sexual stigma to overcome. In the early part of the century, attacks on the barren spinster novelist were part of the common fund of humor." Chapter 3, The Double Critical Standard and the Feminine Novel p. 74 -75: "...As it became apparent that Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth were not aberrations, but the forerunners of female participation in the development of the novel, jokes about dancing dogs no longer seemed an adequate response." p. 83: "Rather than protesting against such criticism, women writers, as we have seen, reinforced it by playing down the effort behind their writing, and trying to make their work appear as the spontaneous overflow of their womanly emotions." p. 86: "...Women novelists might have banded together and insisted on their vocation as something that made them superior to the ordinary women, perhaps even happier. Instead they adopted defensive positions and committed themselves to conventional roles. ...The feminine writers' self-abasement backfired and caused the kind of patronizing trivialization of their works found in George Smith's obituary of Mrs. Gaskell: "She was much prouder of ruling her household well... than of all she did in those writings." p 91: "...When the authors behind the pseudonyms [Eliot and Bronte] were revealed to be women, critics were dismayed. The main difference between the two episodes was that Charlotte Bronte had been shocked, dismayed, and hurt to discover that her realism struck others as improper; George Eliot had seen what happened to Charlotte Bronte, and was prepared." Critics looked to find someone to blame for "coarseness" in Jane Eyre, like Bramwell, the author's brother, p. 93: "The Quarterly Review looked closer to home, at the influence of Bramwell, "thoroughly depraved himself, and tainting the thoughts of all within his sphere." Many readers, including Charlotte Yonge, felt that Branwell's influence on his sisters had been dastardly, but they found it comfortably in accordance with their notions of male and female temperament." Chapter 4, Feminine Heroines: Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot p. 102: "By 1853 Austen's name had become a byword for female literary restraint, as is demonstrated by the protest of a critic for the Christian Remembrancer: "'A writer of the school of Miss Austen' is a much-abused phrase, applied now-a-days by critics who, it is charitable to suppose, have never read Mrs. Austen's works, to any female writer who composes dull stories without incident, full of level conversation, and concerned with characters of middle life." p. 121 "...the image of the "maniacal and destructive woman" closely parallels that of the sexually powerful woman: "Menstruation, 19th century physicians worried, could drive some women temporarily insane; menstruating women might go berserk, destroying furniture, attacking family and strangers alike... Those 'unfortunate women' subject to such excessive menstrual influence," one doctor suggested, "should for their own good and that of society be incarcerated for the length of their menstrual years." Chapter 5, Feminine Heroes: The Woman's Man 136: "It is customary for critics of the Victorian novel to see women's heroes as fantasy lovers, daydreams of romantic suitors. Critics have been rather slow to perceive that much of the wish-fulfillment in the feminine novel comes from women wishing they were men, with the greater freedom and range masculinity confers. Their heroes are not so much their ideal lovers as their projected egos." 140: cite in Carol Norton, Lost and Saved: ""Ever since Jane Eyre loved Mr. Rochester, a race of novel-heroes have spring up... Brutal and selfish in their ways, and rather repulsive in person, they are, nevertheless, represented as perfectly adorable, and carrying all before them, like George Sand's galley slave." These heroes do have a decided family resemblance. They are not conventionally handsome, and often are downright ugly; they have piercing eyes; they are brusque and cynical in speech, impetuous in action. Thrilling the heroine with their rebellion and power, they simultaneously appeal to her reforming energies." 140: "...The problem with the brute hero, the reason that he was considered so much a feminine property, was not that he was an unconvincing man, but that to the conservative male Victorian mind he was unlovable." p 142-3 "Men, it appears, saw these heroes as tyrants who took advantage of helpless heroines, but nothing could have been further from their author's intentions. At least one woman critic recognized the appeal of the rough lover. Mrs. Oliphant, who personally tended to portray the safer, blander, clerical hero, shrewdly observed that the brute flattered the heroine's spirit by treating her as an equal rather than as a sensitive, fragile fool who must be sheltered and protected. ...Like the dark heroes in Scott's novels, the descendants of Rochester represent the passionate and angry qualities in their creators." Chapter 6, Subverting the Feminine Novel: Sensationalism and Feminine Protest p 158: "As Kathleen Tillotson points out, "the purest type of sensation novel is the novel-with-a-secret." For the Victorian woman, secrecy was simply a way of life. The sensationalists made crime and violence domestic, modern, and suburban; but their secrets were not simply solutions to mysteries and crimes; they were the secrets of women's dislike of their roles as daughters, wives, and mothers." p 160: "In many sensation novels, the death of a husband comes as a welcome release, and women escape from their families through illness, madness, divorce, flight, and ultimately murder. ...Dr George Black warned in 1888 that incautious perusal of such novels had a "tendency to accelerate the occurrence of menstruation."" 162, on The Woman In White: "Collins also creates an active, intelligent female character in Laura's stepsister, Marian Halcombe, but he takes care to make her unfeminine and ugly - she is the only Victorian heroine of my acquaintance with a mustache. ... Marian Halcombe, as her first name suggests, is an anomalous figure somewhat similar to George Eliot (Collins did not like women novelists)." 165, Lady Audley's Secret: "The dangerous woman is not the rebel or the bluestocking, but the "pretty little girl" whose indoctrination in the female role has taught her secrecy and deceitfulness, almost as secondary sex characteristics. She is particularly dangerous because she looks so innocent." p 165 Footnote 28: "Mrs Oliphant credited Braddon with setting a new fashion: "She is the inventor of the fair-haired demon of modern fiction. Wicked women used to be brunettes long ago, now they are the daintiest, softest, prettiest of blonde creatures; and this change has been wrought by Lady Audley and her influence on contemporary novels." 166: "Braddon's villain is Wilkie Collins' victim, and Braddon's satire of the conventions of The Woman in White extends to many other details. Throughout her novel, Braddon shows that a determined woman can liberate herself by actively applying the methods through which Collins' passive heroine is nearly destroyed." 169: Discussion of the Constance Kent case, notably in Juliana Ewing's Six to Sixteen (also in the Suspicions of Mr Whicher) Chapter 7, The Feminist Novelists 184-5: "...This time around, women rejected the passivity and the non competitive separation of spheres basic to the feminine ideal. ...While their male contemporaries, such as Gissing, Moore, and Hardy, imagined a New Woman who fulfilled their own fantasies of sexual freedom (a heroine made notorious to feminists' disgust, by Grant Allen's 1895 best seller The Woman Who Did), feminist writers of the 1880s and 1890s demanded self-control for men rather than license for themselves. ...Their version of New Womanhood, though not as sensational as Allen's, was probably more pragmatic, and probably more threatening." 187: "To sheltered and sexually naive ladies, the revelations of the Contagious Diseases Acts campaigns (1864-1884) came with traumatic force. The campaign reached its full strength at just about the time that The Subjection of Women appeared. On December 31, 1869 the Daily News published a manifesto demanding the abolition of the Acts that was signed by 124 prominent women, including Florence Nightingale and Harriet Martineau. From then on, respectable women were confronted with an ever-escalating series of shocking stories of male brutality, profligacy, and vice. ...The policeman and the doctor became agents of the state in their forcible examinations of women accused of prostitution. ...The suicide of an innocent suspect, Mrs. Percy, in 1875, consolidated the view of a male alliance dedicated to the persecution of women." Footnote 8, p 187: "The Contagious Diseases Acts, instituted during the Crimean War, attempted to control syphilis by enforced examination, detection, and treatment of prostitutes in garrison towns. Women objected because men were neither examined nor punished for their part in the transactions." Footnote 9, p 188 "Between 1880 and 1900 about fifteen hundred infants died annually of hereditary venereal infections." p. 191 "...[Ellis] Ethelmer's Woman Free (1893), a long poem in heroic couplets, celebrates the coming end of the menstrual cycle." If you've actually made it this far and really want to read more: last few chapters of quotes are here.

  2. 5 out of 5

    El

    Let me preface this by saying that I despised Wuthering Heights and feel that probably means I also despise Emily Bronte. That's important here only because the subtitle here is "British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing". I don't want anyone thinking that just because I read this book I automatically swoon over Wuthering Heights. 'Cause I don't. Moving on. The purpose behind this book of Showalter's is to show that women are on a completely different plane than men. Not in a bad way, though Let me preface this by saying that I despised Wuthering Heights and feel that probably means I also despise Emily Bronte. That's important here only because the subtitle here is "British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing". I don't want anyone thinking that just because I read this book I automatically swoon over Wuthering Heights. 'Cause I don't. Moving on. The purpose behind this book of Showalter's is to show that women are on a completely different plane than men. Not in a bad way, though there will certainly be readers out there who immediately think, "Oh, hellz yeah, women are crazy!" But those people probably aren't reading this particular review of this particular book so it really doesn't matter. Showalter begins in the 1800s in her discussion of literary tradition and discusses the different women writers over the years and their impact on the course of literature. She shows how this tradition has grown over the years, focusing her discussion on three specific phases: Feminine, Feminist, and Female. In the Feminine phase (1840-1880) Showalter shows that women wrote in order to reach the same intellectual level as their fellow men writers. Women in this period especially often used pseudonyms in order to get their work published. The Feminist phase (1880-1920) involved women writing as a way to fight back against the stereotypes of what a woman should or should not do. Clearly this is the time that women's rights were coming to the forefront. In the third phase, Female (1920-present [or at least "present" when the book was published in 1977:]), women seem to, according to Showalter, stop caring what their fellow men-folk think, and stop using men in the equation of writing at all. I'm intrigued by the three phases, but want to know more. Her focus here was British women with only a side comment about American counterparts such as Edith Wharton. (You knew I had to make a shout out to my lady friend, didn't you?) In case anyone forgot, Henry James really was a chauvinistic pig, and Showalter throws in a few jabs at him as well, which I fully support. Even though he's dead and really couldn't give a crap what a silly little woman like me thinks of him anyway. Pfft.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Pollard-Gott

    One of my favorite books, an eye-opener earlyon as I became better acquainted with the many women novelists, what they wrote and why they wrote. Reading such encyclopedic surveys can be a distinct pleasure when, in this case, it is enlivened by Showalter's passionate advocacy for her subject and sprinkled throughout with her knowledge and wisdom. At about the same time I read the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, so I was on a roll with feminist self-education! One of my favorite books, an eye-opener earlyon as I became better acquainted with the many women novelists, what they wrote and why they wrote. Reading such encyclopedic surveys can be a distinct pleasure when, in this case, it is enlivened by Showalter's passionate advocacy for her subject and sprinkled throughout with her knowledge and wisdom. At about the same time I read the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, so I was on a roll with feminist self-education!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Mitchell

    During a heat wave you would think I'd be reading something light and "beachy" but no, I've been reading this serious critical look at British women novelists from Bronte to Lessing from a feminist point of view. This is a revised and expanded edition of her original book published in 1977 I believe. Those early women novelists were admirable, strong women. With all the restrictions on their education and lifestyle, they still managed to write novels that are widely read even today. Jane Eyre, Wu During a heat wave you would think I'd be reading something light and "beachy" but no, I've been reading this serious critical look at British women novelists from Bronte to Lessing from a feminist point of view. This is a revised and expanded edition of her original book published in 1977 I believe. Those early women novelists were admirable, strong women. With all the restrictions on their education and lifestyle, they still managed to write novels that are widely read even today. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and all the other beloved novels they wrote have much of value to say to we modern women with all our freedoms. Just think, they had little or no education, were only trained to catch a man, hopefully a rich one, and had no knowledge of the life of anyone other than people just like themselves. Most of us would go stark raving mad with all their confining rules. Their fathers and then husbands had total control over them, even over what they were allowed to read. We get a slight taste of this kind of life watching series on Masterpiece Theater, but the girls in those families are sly enough to find ways around the men in their lives. I doubt most women in 19th century English upper classes could get away with such things. Showalter, a Princeton professor, wrote this book as a result of an academic study of all the women novelists in England and this is a book that could easily be used as a textbook. That is not to say that it is dry and boring, anything but. I found it very readable and fascinating, enough so to read it through a week of terrible heat and humidity. Now I'm going on to something very light, but this book told me not only about the writing these women did, but nearly every aspect of their lives. The addition of novelists of the modern day through Doris Lessing is a small part of the overall book. The feminist aspects of the book are enlightening as well, and Showalter includes much about the suffragists' struggle for the vote and against war. I confess this was the least interesting part to me, but I must admit that it would be impossible to separate the feminist movement from English women's literature since each was influenced greatly by the other. I recommend this book but not to everyone. If you are interested in women's history or the early English women novelists, you will enjoy this study. Otherwise, you'll do better to stick with the actual novels, but don't let yourself be misguided in the thought that 19th century novels will be boring. You'll miss some excellent reads.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gerda

    A wonderful review and analysis of women literature from early Victorian times to the interwar period. A real eye opener in terms of how much women literature there was these days, how it reflected women's valued and ideals and how it was received and criticized at the time. The book is well written and engaging and a great way to discover more female literature from the 19th century. A wonderful review and analysis of women literature from early Victorian times to the interwar period. A real eye opener in terms of how much women literature there was these days, how it reflected women's valued and ideals and how it was received and criticized at the time. The book is well written and engaging and a great way to discover more female literature from the 19th century.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This is one of the classics in feminist literary theory. It's a survey of British women writers, showing how their womanhood shaped their writing. It both confirms and refutes the idea that there is such a thing as "women's literature" It pleased the former English major in me. This is one of the classics in feminist literary theory. It's a survey of British women writers, showing how their womanhood shaped their writing. It both confirms and refutes the idea that there is such a thing as "women's literature" It pleased the former English major in me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Mecke

    Elaine Showalter pioneered women's studies in this book. If you love British novels and haven't read this book, you will discover wonderful writers -- and you will know how lucky we are today that they persevered. Elaine Showalter pioneered women's studies in this book. If you love British novels and haven't read this book, you will discover wonderful writers -- and you will know how lucky we are today that they persevered.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Argh. Biographism, you little shit.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Abbi Dion

    In Lady Audley's Secret (1862) Mary Braddon's bigamous heroine deserts her child, pushes husband number one down a well, thinks about poisoning husband number two, and sets fire to a hotel in which her other male acquaintances are residing. The heroine in Rhoda Broughton's Cometh Up as a Flower (1867) Nell Le Strange is witty, exuberant, cheerfully frank, and outspokenly passionate; when she meets a handsome guardsman in the woods, her happiness is "limitless, frenzied, drunken." But he is marri In Lady Audley's Secret (1862) Mary Braddon's bigamous heroine deserts her child, pushes husband number one down a well, thinks about poisoning husband number two, and sets fire to a hotel in which her other male acquaintances are residing. The heroine in Rhoda Broughton's Cometh Up as a Flower (1867) Nell Le Strange is witty, exuberant, cheerfully frank, and outspokenly passionate; when she meets a handsome guardsman in the woods, her happiness is "limitless, frenzied, drunken." But he is married already, and Nell, must agree to a marriage of convenience with the rich, and old, Sir Hugh. Nell struggles with her revulsion and self-contempt, and wishes wistfully that her husband would transfer his attentions to the cook. Male competitors like Mortimer Collins grumbled that the new favorite heroine was the "silly girl…who cometh up as a flower or throweth her husband down a well." (paraphrased) Elaine Showalter "No man would have dared to write and publish such books as some of these are: no man could have written such delineations of female passion…No! They are women." Francis E. Paget

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    Really solid examination of women's writing (even though that is kind of a cringe category) from Charlotte Bronte to Doris Lessing. It's a classic of literary criticism, especially feminist criticism, and definitely deserves the accolade. I'd have loved to see earlier female authors dealt with, of course--Delarivier Manley, Eliza Haywood, Frances Burney et al.--and I'd also have been interested to see some more in-depth case studies of actual novels; Showalter's strategy is to range widely over Really solid examination of women's writing (even though that is kind of a cringe category) from Charlotte Bronte to Doris Lessing. It's a classic of literary criticism, especially feminist criticism, and definitely deserves the accolade. I'd have loved to see earlier female authors dealt with, of course--Delarivier Manley, Eliza Haywood, Frances Burney et al.--and I'd also have been interested to see some more in-depth case studies of actual novels; Showalter's strategy is to range widely over various works as evidence without deeply analyzing more than one or two. Nevertheless, very thought-provoking and, even given the fact that this "updated version" was published in 1982 and feminism has moved quite a long way since then, an excellent introduction to feminist crit.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This basically boils down to a textbook, but it's still a well-written, interesting one. Clearly, Showalter put a lot of love, thought, and research into it, and it shows. My main critique is that at times, I wished the scope was either much wider, or much smaller. There were many times when Showalter would make minor mentions of an author or a work before moving on to another topic, and I'd be left wishing for more details. Also, the appendix of female author biographies could definitely have be This basically boils down to a textbook, but it's still a well-written, interesting one. Clearly, Showalter put a lot of love, thought, and research into it, and it shows. My main critique is that at times, I wished the scope was either much wider, or much smaller. There were many times when Showalter would make minor mentions of an author or a work before moving on to another topic, and I'd be left wishing for more details. Also, the appendix of female author biographies could definitely have been far more detailed. But still, this was an ambitious project that was well-realized.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Estrella

    Mi first book of 2019 is for the uni haha. Really interesting reading, though. I discovered many women writers, and I learnt a lot about their struggles, their fights. How their possibilities were growing. I really enjoyed the Victorian part, terrible period for the women. I also discovered more about Virginia Woolf and her complicated life. My copy is full of notes and my to-read list is wider.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Whisper19

    an interesting read, and useful for those who want to know more about women writers in 19-century England.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn

    She failed at the flight to androgyny...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Essential for feminist literary criticism. I'll keep this one as a reference work :) Essential for feminist literary criticism. I'll keep this one as a reference work :)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kay Robart

    See my review here: https://whatmeread.wordpress.com/2021... See my review here: https://whatmeread.wordpress.com/2021...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Down a George Eliot rabbit hole, I read about half this book, mostly for the Eliot content. Stopped once Showalter had reached the end of the 19th C. Does not add much to Eliot scholarship, and the chapter on Bronte and Eliot is mostly on Bronte (Charlotte, not Emily, is the focus throughout the book, per the Goodreads reader letting us know how much she dislikes "Wuthering Heights"!). This was an important text through the '80's, when I studied Victorian Lit. Still worth a read, although having Down a George Eliot rabbit hole, I read about half this book, mostly for the Eliot content. Stopped once Showalter had reached the end of the 19th C. Does not add much to Eliot scholarship, and the chapter on Bronte and Eliot is mostly on Bronte (Charlotte, not Emily, is the focus throughout the book, per the Goodreads reader letting us know how much she dislikes "Wuthering Heights"!). This was an important text through the '80's, when I studied Victorian Lit. Still worth a read, although having read "The Madwoman in the Attic" recently, I think the scholarship, and new interpretation, there is superior. Plus, having read that already, there were few, if any, new author's names to add to my "to read" list (nice reminder of Alice James, and Oive Schreiner's "The Story of an African Farm" though - oddly both not from the main island of Great Britian). The new edition from 1999 (the book was first published in 1977), most of the new, long introduction is spent arguing with Toril Moi's later review of the book. As Showalter points out, when she wrote this, French, Neo-Marxist, Post-Modern, Deconstructionalist criticism was not translated, let alone "popular", here in the US. For Moi to call her out for not taking that approach is similar to the film critics who often write, "If I had made this movie, this is what I would have done...." And for those complaining that the book is centered on white women, not enough minorities, could you please name some British, 19th C published female minority authors? Geez! Still worth a read, while holding the thought that this is *one* appraoch to the writings she covers here (and she does write about early 20th C - mostly Woolf - and some writers contemporary to the late 20th C). A surpringly pleasant read, not filled with turgid academia-speak.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Gurteen

    Obviously, this study was very influential at its time. It helped bring a whole canon of female writers into literature. I cannot help but wonder what it would look like if Showalter were to write it now, however. Certainly, it would be less biographical and focus on the prevalence of female authors today. Unfortunately, I found 'A Literature of Their Own: British Women Writers from Charlotte Brontë to Doris Lessing' quite poorly written and pretentious. A significant reason for my three-star ra Obviously, this study was very influential at its time. It helped bring a whole canon of female writers into literature. I cannot help but wonder what it would look like if Showalter were to write it now, however. Certainly, it would be less biographical and focus on the prevalence of female authors today. Unfortunately, I found 'A Literature of Their Own: British Women Writers from Charlotte Brontë to Doris Lessing' quite poorly written and pretentious. A significant reason for my three-star rating, though, is the frequent inaccuracies in the edition I read. Some of these came from Showalter herself, who is incorrect in her information. This book may also contain the most spelling and grammatical errors I have ever read, however. Considering it is an academic study, this is unforgivable. I almost feel that whoever compiled this edition scanned the original draft and put it through a text reader. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone studying English literature. It is clearly a very important text. It was not five stars for me, though.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Oisín

    A extremely industrious and edifying study. Showalter’s knowledge of British women’s literature is impressively broad, and the blend of textual history and analysis is rather satisfying. However I did find some of the analysis, the comparisons between Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot in particular, to be something of a reach. Furthermore, I found almost all of the chapter on Woolf creepy, for lack of a better word. There was a lot of discussion of her biography and her body (especially menstrua A extremely industrious and edifying study. Showalter’s knowledge of British women’s literature is impressively broad, and the blend of textual history and analysis is rather satisfying. However I did find some of the analysis, the comparisons between Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot in particular, to be something of a reach. Furthermore, I found almost all of the chapter on Woolf creepy, for lack of a better word. There was a lot of discussion of her biography and her body (especially menstruation/menopause). The final chapter on Angela Carter and literature since the book was first published also makes the structure rather ungainly. Despite all of this, it is an extremely important book, and it’s more materialist approach provides a useful foil to the more post-structuralist feminist criticism.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    Comprehensive study of the development and genealogies of women's writing in England from the early 19th century to the late 20th century. Showalter's writing is effective but very pleasant to read. The largest gaps I would note are in the exclusion of lesbian and bisexual cultures within women's writing, even as Showalter makes gestures towards those possibilities. Her analysis of Virginia Woolf's life and writing, for example, seems to lack a lot in the exclusion of her relationship with Vita Comprehensive study of the development and genealogies of women's writing in England from the early 19th century to the late 20th century. Showalter's writing is effective but very pleasant to read. The largest gaps I would note are in the exclusion of lesbian and bisexual cultures within women's writing, even as Showalter makes gestures towards those possibilities. Her analysis of Virginia Woolf's life and writing, for example, seems to lack a lot in the exclusion of her relationship with Vita Sackville-West. I don't know if this was a gap in knowledge at the time, or simply a choice on Showalter's part. If it is the former, then there is no fault to be had, if the latter, a serious gap in my opinion. Overall, this text was a good introduction to the various threads of women's writing. It is definitely more literary history than literary theory, and it should be read as such.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maria Thomas

    I'm sure that my rating says more about me than it does about the book but I didn't like it so I couldn't rate it higher. I read it for a reading challenge task but it wasn't at all what I thought I was getting. I was interested in British female novelists but didn't understand that what I was getting was feminism in those novelists. I'm sure this is a good book for the classroom but for my purposes it just felt like a giant research paper that I didn't have enough background in to really unders I'm sure that my rating says more about me than it does about the book but I didn't like it so I couldn't rate it higher. I read it for a reading challenge task but it wasn't at all what I thought I was getting. I was interested in British female novelists but didn't understand that what I was getting was feminism in those novelists. I'm sure this is a good book for the classroom but for my purposes it just felt like a giant research paper that I didn't have enough background in to really understand. I slogged through it to finish my task but if it hadn't been for the reading challenge I never would have gotten past the first chapter or two. It was laborious for me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    T.E.

    Highly interesting and readable, though obviously a little "2nd wave" in its conclusions for my tastes. Extremely well written and organized Highly interesting and readable, though obviously a little "2nd wave" in its conclusions for my tastes. Extremely well written and organized

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bea

    So many typos

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mirte

    A Literature of Their Own is one of the major works of feminist literary criticism written in the second feminist wave. It is truly seminal in many of its ideas, and forms a brave attempt at finding and (re)creating a sense of feminine heritage in literature. However, it is also flawed in many points. The work is barely intersectional and focuses on works written by white, middle-class female authors, mostly from England. Furthermore, it is a little unclear in its actual theory and methodology, A Literature of Their Own is one of the major works of feminist literary criticism written in the second feminist wave. It is truly seminal in many of its ideas, and forms a brave attempt at finding and (re)creating a sense of feminine heritage in literature. However, it is also flawed in many points. The work is barely intersectional and focuses on works written by white, middle-class female authors, mostly from England. Furthermore, it is a little unclear in its actual theory and methodology, while it clearly does have a political agenda. Showalter at times judges certain authors or groups of authors for their practice (be it feminine, feminist or female) and fails to admit this. As Toril Moi has also pointed out, Showalter basically wishes to set up a new canon, a female one, without questioning the need and logic behind a canon - enforcing one's idea of 'good literature' upon others, which is problematic. This is a very good text to use as a spring board into the concept of gynocriticism, but I'd recommend reading it in tandem with Gilbert and Gubar's Madwoman in the Attic, which is clearer in its theoretical approach and is kind of driven by the same issues, while also looking at subsequent criticism of these books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karith Amel

    I mostly read this for its commentary on Virginia Woolf, and I can't say that I was overly impressed. Showalter brings interesting points about Woolf's physicality to light, but I think she does so at the expense of relegating her literature to a kind of anti-autobiography -- only interesting as an exploration of all the ways she should have written about herself (overtly) but didn't. And I think Showalter simply doesn't understand. Doesn't see the complex reality that Woolf weaves, in which the I mostly read this for its commentary on Virginia Woolf, and I can't say that I was overly impressed. Showalter brings interesting points about Woolf's physicality to light, but I think she does so at the expense of relegating her literature to a kind of anti-autobiography -- only interesting as an exploration of all the ways she should have written about herself (overtly) but didn't. And I think Showalter simply doesn't understand. Doesn't see the complex reality that Woolf weaves, in which there is everything and nothing, for there are no firm foundations to stand on, for all shifts, incessantly, gloriously, in the complexity that is life and thought, body and spirit. Woolf is not shying away from her perception of truth and femininity; she's looking it in the face. But this is not the reality that Showalter believes in, or wants, so she stridently looks away -- unable, unwilling, to see Woolf's work as anything but what it isn't.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    It's hard to rate a book you've only read a sliver of in order to argue against the feminist interpretation of Lady Audley's Secret. One star because I have to give it at least a star and another just for the fact that she is such a huge name in the criticism circle. It's hard to rate a book you've only read a sliver of in order to argue against the feminist interpretation of Lady Audley's Secret. One star because I have to give it at least a star and another just for the fact that she is such a huge name in the criticism circle.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Latha

    Traces the writings of women and speaks about the different phases of development in 'woman' writing Traces the writings of women and speaks about the different phases of development in 'woman' writing

  28. 4 out of 5

    Masha3el Alshuwaihan

    i like the way that she was describing the sitution of women writers , and how the socity reject their talented gift.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    Important book about women writers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Shing

    The book originates from the author's PHD thesis. The book originates from the author's PHD thesis.

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