Women's writing in English

Women's writing as a discrete area of literary studies is based on the notion that the experience of women, historically, has been shaped by their gender, and so women writers by definition are a group worthy of separate study. "Their texts emerge from and intervene in conditions usually very different from those which produced most writing by men." [Blain, Virginia, Isobel Grundy, and Patricia Clements, eds. "The Feminist Companion to Literature in English". New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1990. viii-ix.] It is not a question of the subject matter or political stance of a particular author, but of her gender: her position as a woman within the literary marketplace. Women's writing, as a discrete area of literary studies and practice, is recognized explicitly by the numbers of dedicated journals, organizations, awards, and conferences which focus mainly or exclusively on texts produced by women. The majority of English literature programmes offer courses on specific aspects of literature by women, and women's writing is generally considered an area of specialization in its own right.

The exemplary tradition

The idea of discussing women's cultural contributions as a separate category has a long history. Lists of exemplary women can be found as far back as the 8th century BC, when Hesiod compiled "Catalogue of Women" (attr.), a list of heroines and goddesses. Plutarch listed heroic and artistic women in his "Moralia". In the medieval period, Boccaccio used mythic and biblical women as moral exemplars in "De mulieribus claris" (On Famous Women) (1361-1375), directly inspiring Christine de Pisan to write "The Book of the City of Ladies" (1405). British writers, as in so many other instances, embraced the classical models and made them their own. Some of the British catalogues were moral in tone but others focused on accomplishments as well as virtues. There are many examples in the eighteenth century of exemplary catalogues of women writers, including George Ballard's "Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Who Have Been Celebrated for their Writing or Skill in the Learned Languages, Arts, and Sciences" (1752), John Duncombe's "Feminiad", a catalogue of women writers, and the "Biographium faemineum: the female worthies, or, Memoirs of the most illustrious ladies, of all ages and nations, who have been eminently distinguished for their magnanimity, learning, genius, virtue, piety, and other excellent endowments". [Todd, Janet, ed. "British Women Writers: a critical reference guide". London: Routledge, 1989. xiii.] And as long as there has been this laudatory trend there has been a counter-trend of misogynist writings, perhaps exemplified by Richard Polwhele's "The Unsex'd Females", a critique in verse of women writers at the end of the eighteenth century with a particular focus on Mary Wollstonecraft and her circle.

Women writers themselves have long been interested in tracing a "woman's tradition" in writing. Mary Scott's "The Female Advocate: A Poem Occasioned by Reading Mr Duncombe's Feminead" (1774) is one of the best known such works in the eighteenth century, a period that saw a burgeoning of women's publishing. In 1803, Mary Hays published the six volume "Female Biography". Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" (1929) exemplifies the impulse in the modern period to explore a tradition of women's writing. Woolf, however, sought to explain what she perceived as an absence; by the mid-century scholarly attention turned to finding and reclaiming "lost" writers. [Buck, Claire, ed." The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature". Prentice Hall, 1992. vix; Salzman, Paul. Introduction, "Early Modern Women's Writing". Oxford UP, 2000. ix.] And there were many to reclaim: it is common for the editors of dictionaries or anthologies of women's writing to refer to the difficulty in choosing from all the available material. [Blain et al. vii; Todd xv; Spender, Dale, and Janet Todd. "Anthology of British Women Writers". Harper Collins, 1989. xiii; Buck ix-x.]

Currently

Women's writing came to exist as a separate category of scholarly interest relatively recently. In the West, the second wave of feminism prompted a general reevaluation of women's historical contributions, and various academic sub-disciplines, such as women's history and women's writing, developed in response to the belief that women's lives and contributions have been underrepresented as areas of scholarly interest. Virginia Blain et al. characterize the growth in interest since 1970 in women's writing as "powerful" [Blain et al. vii.] . Much of this early period of feminist literary scholarship was given over to the rediscovery and reclamation of texts written by women. Studies like Dale Spender's "Mothers of the Novel" (1986) and Jane Spencer's "The Rise of the Woman Novelist" (1986) were ground-breaking in their insistence that women have always been writing. Commensurate with this growth in scholarly interest, various presses began the task of reissuing long-out-of-print texts. Virago Press began to publish its large list of nineteenth and early-twentieth-century novels in 1975 and became one of the first commercial presses to join in the project of reclamation. In the 1980s Pandora Press, responsible for publishing Spender's study, issued a companion line of eighteenth-century novels by written by women. [Sandra M. Gilbert, " [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DE4DD1E3AF937A35756C0A960948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1 Paperbacks: From Our Mothers' Libraries: women who created the novel] ." "New York Times", May 4, 1986.] More recently, Broadview Press continues to issue eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels, many hitherto out of print, and the University of Kentucky has a series of republications of early women's novels. There has been commensurate growth in the area of biographical dictionaries of women writers due to a perception, according to one editor, that " [m] ost of our women are not represented in the 'standard' reference books in the field." [Blain et al. viii.] .

Trade publishers have similarly focused on women's writing: since the 1970s there have been a number of literary periodicals such as "Fireweed" and "Room of One's Own" which are dedicated to publishing the creative work of women writers. There are a number of dedicated presses, such as the Second Story Press and the Women's Press. In addition, collections and anthologies of women's writing continue to be published by both trade and academic presses.

The widespread interest in women's writing developed alongside, influenced, and was influenced by, a general reassessment and expansion of the literary canon. Interest in post-colonial literatures, gay and lesbian literature, writing by people of colour, working people's writing, and the cultural productions of other historically marginalized groups has resulted in a whole scale expansion of what is considered "literature," and genres hitherto not regarded as "literary," such as children's writing, journals, letters, travel writing, and many others [Blain x; Buck x.] are now the subjects of scholarly interest. Most genres and sub-genres have undergone a similar analysis, so that one now sees work on the "female gothic" [Term coined by Ellen Moers in "Literary Women: The Great Writers" (New York: Doubleday, 1976). See also Juliann E. Fleenor, ed., "The Female Gothic" (Montreal: Eden Press, 1983) and Gary Kelly, ed., "Varieties of Female Gothic" 6 Vols. (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2002).] or women's science fiction, for example.

The question of whether or not there is a "women's tradition" remains vexed; some scholars and editors refer to a "women's canon" and women's "literary lineage," and seek to "identify the recurring themes and to trace the evolutionary and interconnecting patterns" in women's writing [Spender & Todd xiii.] , but the range of women's writing across time and place is so considerable that, according to somewho, it is inaccurate to speak of "women's writing" in a universal sense: Claire Buck calls "women's writing" an "unstable category." [Buck xi.] Further, women writers cannot be considered apart from their male contemporaries and the larger literary tradition. Recent scholarship on race, class, and sexuality in literature further complicate the issue and militate against the impulse to posit one "women's tradition." Some scholars maintain a commonality, however: editors Virginia Blain et al. argue that "the inter-nationality of the entries" in "The Feminist Companion to Literature in English" "confirms our sense both of a common literary inheritance differently managed in its several locations and of a tradition in women's writing based on common experience and spanning geographical and cultural boundaries." [Blain et al. x.] More cautiously, Roger Lonsdale allows that "it is not unreasonable to consider" women writers "in some aspects as a special case, given their educational insecurities and the constricted notions of the properly 'feminine' in social and literary behaviour they faced." [Lonsdale, Roger ed. "Eighteenth-Century Women Poets". New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. xliii.] . Using the term "women's writing" implies, then, the belief that women in some sense constitute a group, however diverse, who share a position of difference based on gender. Blain et al. lay out their determination to include "not only English women, but women writing in English in several national traditions, including African, American, Asian, Australian, Canadian, Caribbean, New Zealand, South Pacific, the British Isles." [Blain et al. vii.] This approach implies that although gender dynamics vary from time and place, the dynamic of difference itself is persistent, and further, that those differences present opportunities for fruitful inquiry.


= The " exemplary women" tradition =

*Hesiod, "Catalogue of Women" (attr.)
*Plutarch, in "Moralia"
* Boccaccio, "De mulieribus claris" (On Famous Women) (1361-1375)
*Christine de Pisan, "The Book of the City of Ladies" (1405)
*Osbern Bokenham, "Legendys of hooly wummen" (c.1430)
*George Ballard, "Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Who Have Been Celebrated for their Writing or Skill in the Learned Languages, Arts, and Sciences". Oxford: W. Jackson, 1752.
*John Duncombe, "Feminead" (1754)
*Anon., "Biographium faemineum : the female worthies, or, Memoirs of the most illustrious ladies, of all ages and nations, who have been eminently distinguished for their magnanimity, learning, genius, virtue, piety, and other excellent endowments". London: Printed for S. Crowder, 1766. 2 vols.
* Mary Scott, "The Female Advocate: A Poem Occasioned by Reading Mr Duncombe's Feminead". London: Joseph Johnson, 1774.
*Mary Hays, "Female Biography" (6 vols., 1803)
*Sarah Josepha Hale, "Woman's Record; or, Sketches of All Distinguished women from the Creation to AD 1850" (1854)
*Charlotte Mary Yonge, "Biographies of Good Women" (First Series, 1862; Second Series, 1865)
*Julia Kavanagh, "Woman in France during the Eighteenth Century" (1850), "Women of Christianity" (1852), "French Women of Letters" (1862) and "English Women of Letters" (1862). These collective biographies "all argue against idealized, sentimental portrayals of female experience. She intended these biographies to provide a corrective to the silence of male historians on the topic of female influence in a variety of sphere beyond the domestic" (" [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/15191 ODNB] ").
*Helen C. Black, "Notable Women Authors of the Day: Biographical Sketches". Glasgow: David Bryce & Son, 1893.
**"These sketches originally appeared as a series in the 'Lady's pictorial'... They are now revised, enlarged and brought up to date." Sketches of Mrs. Lynn Linton, Mrs. Riddell, Mrs. L. B. Walford, Rhoda Broughton, John Strange Winter (Mrs. Arthur Stannard), Mrs. Alexander, Helen Mathers, Florence Marryat, Mrs. Lovett Cameron, Mrs. Hungerford, Matilda Betham Edwards, Edna Lyall, Rosa Nouchette Carey, Adeline Sergeant, Mrs. Edward Kennard, Jessie Fothergill, Lady Duffus Hardy, Iza Duffus Hardy, May Crommelin, Mrs. Houstoun, Mrs. Alex. Fraser, Honourable Mrs. Henry Chetwynd, Jean Middlemass, Augusta De Grasse Stevens, Mrs. Leith Adams, Jean Ingelow.

Resources

*Abel, Elizabeth, "Writing and Sexual Difference". University of Chicago Press, 1982.
*Allison, Dorothy. "Skin: Talking About Sex, Class & Literature". New York: Firebrand Books, 1994.
*Ayres, Brenda, "Silent Voices: Forgotten Novels by Victorian Women Writers". Westport, CT: Praeger Pub, 2003.
*Backscheider, Paula R., and John Richetti, eds. "Popular Fiction by Women, 1660-1730". Oxford: OUP, 1996.
*Eagleton, Mary, ed., "Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader". Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.
*Fetterley, Judith, "The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction". Indiana University Press, 1978.
*Figes, Eva,"Sex and Subterfuge: Women Writers to 1850". The Macmillan Press, 1982.
* Ferguson, Mary Anne, [compiler] . "Images of Women in Literature", 3rd Edition, Houghton-Mifflin Co. 1981. ISBN 0-395-29113-5
*Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar, "The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination". Yale University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-300-08458-7
*Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar, eds., "The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature and Theory". London: Virago Press, 1989.
*Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. "No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century". 2 Vols. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989.
*Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar, eds., "Norton Anthology of Literature by Women".
*Greer, Germaine, et al., eds. "Kissing the Rod: an anthology of seventeenth-century women's verse". Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1988.
*Hobby, Elaine, "Virtue of Necessity: English women's writing 1649-1688". London: Virago Press, 1988. ISBN 0-86068-831-3
*Lonsdale, Roger ed. "Eighteenth-Century Women Poets". New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
*Moi, Toril, "Sexual/ Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory". London: Methuen, 1987. ISBN 0-415-02974-0; ISBN 0-415-28012-5 (second edition).
*Robertson, Fiona, ed. "Women's Writing, 1778-1838". Oxford: OUP, 2001.
*Russ, Joanna. "How to Suppress Women's Writing". Austin: U of Texas Press, 1983.
*spender, dale, "Mothers of the Novel: 100 good women writers before Jane Austen". London and New York: Pandora, 1986. ISBN 0863580815
*Showalter, Elaine, "A Literature of their own: from Charlotte Bronte to Doris Lessing". London: Virago Press, 1977.
*Spacks, Patricia Meyer, "The Female Imagination: A Literary and Psychological Investigation of women's writing". George Allen and Unwin, 1976.
*Spencer, Jane, "The Rise of the Woman Novelist". Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986. ISBN 0-631-13916-8
*Todd, Janet, "Feminist Literary History: A Defence". Cambridge: Polity Press / Basil Blackwell, 1988.
*Todd, Janet, "The Sign of Angellica: women, writing and fiction, 1660-1800". London: Virago Press, 1989. ISBN 0-86068-576-4

eries of republications

* [http://www.feministpress.org/ Feminist Press] : New York-based press which began reprinting books by American women in 1972
* Persephone Books : London-based press which "reprints forgotten classics by twentieth-century (mostly women) writers. The titles are chosen to appeal to busy women who rarely have time to spend in ever-larger bookshops and who would like to have access to a list of books designed to be neither too literary nor too commercial."
*Virago Press since 1975 has republished over 500 post-1800 classics of women's literature (see [http://www.virago.co.uk/virago/vmc/index.asp? list] and [http://www.virago.co.uk/virago/vmc/index1800.asp timeline] ) in their series Virago Modern Classics.
*Pandora Press "Mothers of the Novel" series:::Mary Brunton, "Discipline". Orig. pub. 1815. 1986. ISBN 0863581056::Mary Brunton, "Self-control". Orig. pub. 1810/11. 1986. ISBN 086358084X::Maria Edgeworth, "Belinda". Orig. pub. 1801. 1986. ISBN 0863580742::Maria Edgeworth, "Helen". Orig. pub. 1834. 1987. ISBN 0863581048::Maria Edgeworth, "Patronage". Orig. pub. 1814. 1986. ISBN 0863581064::Eliza Fenwick, "Secrecy, or The Ruin of the Rock". Orig. pub. 1795. 1988. ISBN 0863583075 ::Sarah Fielding, "The Governess, or The Little Female Academy". Orig. pub. 1749. 1987. ISBN 086358182X :: Mary Hamilton, "Munster Village". Orig. pub. 1778. 1987. ISBN 0863581331 ::Mary Hays, "The Memoirs of Emma Courtney". Orig. pub. 1796. 1987. ISBN 0863581323::Eliza Haywood, "The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless". Orig. pub. 1751. 1986. ISBN 0863580904 ::Elizabeth Inchbald, "A Simple Story". Orig. pub. 1791. 1987. ISBN 0863581366::Charlotte Lennox, "The Female Quixote, or the Adventures of Arabella". Orig. pub. 1752. 1986. ISBN 0863580807::Sydney Owenson, "The Wild Irish Girl". Orig. pub. 1806. 1986. ISBN 0863580971::Amelia Opie, "Adeline Mowbray, or The Mother and Daughter". Orig. pub. 1804. 1986. ISBN 0863580858::Frances Sheridan, "Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph". Orig. pub. 1761. 1987. ISBN 086358134X ::Charlotte Smith, "The Old Manor House". Orig. pub. 1793. 1987. ISBN 0863581358
* [http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/acatalog/__American_Women_Writers_647.html American Women Writers Series] , Rutgers University Press
* [http://www.broadviewpress.com/ Broadview Press] republish modern editions of classic works of literature as Broadview Editions (listed [http://www.broadviewpress.com/BLTglance.asp?seriesID=1 alphabetically by title] and [http://www.broadviewpress.com/BLTglancechrono.asp?seriesID=1 chronologically] ): a high proportion are works by women writers
*University of Kentucky series of [http://www.kentuckypress.com/series_eighteenth.cfm Eighteenth-Century Novels by Women]
*Oxford University Press. "The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers", ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.. 30 vols, Oxford University Press, 1988. A 10-volume "Supplement" was published in 1991.

Web-based projects

* [http://www.uni-koeln.de/phil-fak/englisch/kurse/17c/index.htm 17th Century Women Poets]
* [http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/biblio/theobib2.html Bibliography of Early Modern Women Writers That Are In Print]
* [http://www.etang.umontreal.ca/bwp1800/ British Women Playwrights around 1800]
* [http://digital.lib.ucdavis.edu/projects/bwrp/ British Women Romantic Poets, 1789 - 1832]
* [http://www.wwp.brown.edu/ The Brown University Women Writers Project]
* [http://www.brocku.ca/canadianwomenpoets/ Canadian Women Poets]
* [http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/ A Celebration of Women Writers]
* [http://www.chawton.org/ Chawton House Library]
* [http://www2.shu.ac.uk/corvey/CW3/ Corvey Women Writers on the Web]
* [http://www.lib.umd.edu/ETC/LOCAL/emw/emw.php3 Early Modern Women Database]
* [http://www.jimandellen.org/ellen/emschol.htm Early Modern Women's Poetry]
* [http://chaucer.library.emory.edu/wwrp/ Emory Women Writers Resource Project]
* [http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/ARTFL/projects/FWW/ ARTFL French Women Writers Project]
* [http://girlebooks.com Girlebooks: free ebooks by women writers]
* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/women/womensbook.html#Early%20Modern%20Europe Internet Women's History Sourcebook]
* [http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/IWW/ ARTFL Italian Women Writers Project]
* [http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/writers.htm Links to Digitizing Projects of Women Writers]
* [http://go.owu.edu/~o5medww/latin.html/ Medieval Women Writers in Latin]
* [http://www.ualberta.ca/ORLANDO/ The Orlando Project: A History of Women's Writing in the British Isles]
* [http://human.ntu.ac.uk/research/perdita/index.html The Perdita Project]
* [http://users.ox.ac.uk/~electra/ Project Electra, Oxford University (under construction)]
* [http://www.indiana.edu/~letrs/vwwp/ The Victorian Women Writers Project]
* [http://edocs.lib.sfu.ca/projects/VWWLP/VWWLP.htm/ The Victorian Women Writers Letters Project]
* [http://voices.cla.umn.edu/ Voices from the Gaps: Women Artists and Writers of Color]
* [http://www.oldroads.org/Room%20of%20One's%20Own/Virtual%20Room%20Home.htm Women Writers Archive]
* [http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/Poetry/WmWriters/ Women Writers of Early Canada]
*Women Writers Project
* [http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/ac/wrew.htm#S Women Romantic-Era Writers]
* [http://etrc.lib.umn.edu/womtrav.htm/ Women’s Travel Writing 1830-1930]
* [http://www.oldroads.org/Room%20of%20One%27s%20Own/Virtual%20Room%20Home.htm The Women Writers Archive: Early Modern Women Writers Online]
* [http://chaucer.library.emory.edu/wwrp/ Women Writers Resource Project]


= Scholarly journals which publish research on women's writing mainly or exclusively=

*" [http://www.msvu.ca/atlantis/ Atlantis] "
*" [http://cameraobscura.dukejournals.org/ Camera Obscura] ". Duke UP. ISSN: 0270-5346
*" [http://www.princeton.edu/~prowom/CM/ Critical Matrix: The Princeton Journal of Women, Gender, and Culture] "
*" [http://www.dukeupress.edu/differences/ differences: a journal of feminist cultural studies] ". Duke UP. ISSN: 1040-7391
*" [http://www.ddv-verlag.de/frauen_zeitschriften.html Feminist Europa. Review of Books] "
*" [http://www.feministstudies.org/ Feminist Studies] "
*" [http://www.femspec.org/ Femspec] ": speculative fiction
*" [http://unp.unl.edu/journalinfo/17.html Frontiers: a journal of women studies] ". U of Nebraska P. ISSN: 0160-9009
*" [http://www.genders.org/ Genders] "
*" [http://www.emsah.uq.edu.au/awsr/Publ_Hecate/hecate.htm Hecate: A Women's Interdisciplinary Journal] " (Australian)
*"International Journal of Women's Studies" (1978-1985)
*" [http://www.nuigalway.ie/wsc/publications/irishfeministreview.htm Irish Feminist Review] "
*" [http://www.englit.or.kr/2003_feminism/e_feminism_home.htm The Korean Society for Feminist Studies in English Literature] "
*" [http://www.lehigh.edu/~dek7/SSAWW/legacy.htm Legacy] ". U of Nebraska P. ISSN: 0748-4321
*" [http://www.ncgsjournal.com/ Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies] "
*" [http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/Signs/home.html Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society] ". 1975-present.
*" [http://www.utulsa.edu/tswl/ Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature] " ISSN: 07327730
*" [http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/WILLA/ WILLA: The Women in Literacy and Life Assembly of The National Council of Teachers of English] "
*" [http://www.nmwa.org/pubs/wia_main.asp Women in the Arts] "
*" [http://www.wcwonline.org/womensreview/ Women's Review of Books] "
*" [http://www.womenwriters.net/index.html Women Writers] " ISSN: 1535-8402535-8402
*" [http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/09699082.asp Women's Writing] " ISSN: 0969-9082 / ISSN: 1747-5848

Literary and review journals of women's writing

*" [http://www.emsah.uq.edu.au/awsr/awbr/issues/142/index.html Australian Women's Book Review] "
*"BlueStockings Journal" (Seitô-sha), founded in 1911
*"Fireweed" (1977-)
*" [http://opencampus.fccj.org/kalliope/ Kalliope, a journal of women's literature & art] "
*" [http://www.pms-journal.org/index.htm PMS poemmemoirstory] " (formerly "Astarte", 1989-2000)
*"Room of One's Own" (1975-)
*" [http://www.gmu.edu/org/sts/mission.htm So To Speak] "
*"Tiger Lily" (1986-)
*" [http://www.wcwonline.org/womensreview/ Women's Review of Books] " (1983-)

See also

*Écriture féminine
*Feminist film theory
*Feminist literary criticism
*Feminist movement
*Feminist science fiction
*Feminist theory
*Gender in science fiction
*History of feminism
*List of biographical dictionaries of women writers
*List of early-modern women playwrights (UK)
*List of early-modern women poets (UK)
*List of feminist literature
*List of literary awards
*List of organizations for women writers
*List of writers in Who's Who in Contemporary Women's Writing
*List of women in Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature
*List of women novelists before Jane Austen
*List of women's presses
*List of women rhetoricians
*List of women writers
*Literary criticism
*Queer studies
*Queer theory
*Women artists
*Women's cinema
*Women in science fiction
*Women science fiction authors
*The Women's Library (London)
*Women's music
*Women's studies
* [http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Women%27s_Studies Women's studies] at [http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Main_Page Wikiversity] features segments on [http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Women%27s_Studies#Arts_and_Humanities women's writing]

Interwikis

* Women of letters

Endnotes


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