Are women able to achieve anything they set their minds to? In How to Suppress Women’s Writing, award-winning novelist and scholar Joanna Russ lays bare the subtle—and not so subtle—strategies that society uses to ignore, condemn, or belittle women who produce literature. As relevant today as when it was first published in 1983, this book has motivated generations of readers with its powerful feminist critique.
“What is it going to take to break apart these rigidities? Russ’s book is a formidable attempt. It is angry without being self-righteous, it is thorough without being exhausting, and it is serious without being devoid of a sense of humor. But it was published over thirty years ago, in 1983, and there’s not an enormous difference between the world she describes and the world we inhabit.”
—Jessa Crispin, from the foreword
“A book of the most profound and original clarity. Like all clear-sighted people who look and see what has been much mystified and much lied about, Russ is quite excitingly subversive. The study of literature should never be the same again.”
“Joanna Russ is a brilliant writer, a writer of real moral passion and high wit.”
As a diary writer imagines shadow readers rifling diary pages, she tweaks images of the self, creating multiple readings of herself, fixed and unfixed. When the readers and potential readers are husbands and publishers, the writer maneuvers carefully in a world of men who are quick to judge and to take offense. She fills the pages with reflections, anecdotes, codes, stories, biographies, and fictions. The diary acts as a site for the writer’s tension, rebellion, and remaking of herself.
In this book Martinson examines the diaries of Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Violet Hunt, and Doris Lessing’s fictional character Anna Wulf, and shows that these diaries (and others like them) are not entirely private writings as has been previously assumed. Rather, their authors wrote them knowing they would be read. In these four cases, the audience is the author’s male lover or husband, and Martinson reveals how knowledge of this audience affects the language and content in each diary. Ultimately, she argues, this audience enforces a certain “male censorship” which changes the shape of the revelations, the shape of the writer herself, making it impossible for the female author to be honest in writing about her true self.
Even sophisticated readers often assume that diaries are primarily private. This study interrogates the myth of authenticity and self-revelation in diaries written under the gaze of particular peekers.
Jane Austen completed only six novels, but enduring passion for the author and her works has driven fans to read these books repeatedly, in book clubs or solo, while also inspiring countless film adaptations, sequels, and even spoofs involving zombies and sea monsters. Austen’s lasting appeal to both popular and elite audiences has lifted her to legendary status. In Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures, Claudia L. Johnson shows how Jane Austen became “Jane Austen,” a figure intensely—sometimes even wildly—venerated, and often for markedly different reasons.
Margaret Storm Jameson (1891–1986) is primarily known as a compelling essayist; her stature as a novelist and champion of the dispossessed is largely forgotten. In Life in the Writings of Storm Jameson, Elizabeth Maslen reveals a figure who held her own beside fellow British women writers, including Virginia Woolf; anticipated the Angry Young Women, such as Doris Lessing; and was an early champion of such European writers as Arthur Koestler and Czesław Miłosz. Jameson was a complex character whose politics were grounded in social justice; she was passionately antifascist—her novel In the Second Year (1936) raised the alarm about Nazism—but always wary of communism. An eloquent polemicist, Jameson was, as president of the British P.E.N. during the 1930s and 1940s, of invaluable assistance to refugee writers. Elizabeth Maslen’s biography introduces a true twentieth century hedgehog, whose essays and subtly experimental fiction were admired in Europe and the States.
“You’ll call this sentimental—perhaps—but then a dog somehow represents the private side of life, the play side,” Virginia Woolf confessed to a friend. In this charming and engaging book, Maureen Adams celebrates this private, playful side telling readers about the relationships between five remarkable women writers and their dogs.
In Shaggy Muses, Adams explores the work and lives of these authors through the various roles played by their most devoted companions. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was rescued from a life of passivity and illness by Flush, a lively, possessive (and frequently dog-napped!) golden Cocker Spaniel. Emily Brontë’s fierce Mastiff mix, Keeper, provided a safe and loving outlet for the writer’s equally fierce spirit. Emily Dickinson found companionship with Carlo, the gentle, giant Newfoundland who soothed her emotional terrors. A troop of ever-faithful Pekingese warmed Edith Wharton’s lonely heart during her restless travels among Europe and America’s social and intellectual elite. And Virginia Woolf developed a deep attachment to Pinka, a black Cocker Spaniel who was both gift from her lover, Vita Sackville-West, and a link to her husband Leonard.
Based on diaries, letters, and other contemporary accounts—and featuring many illustrations of the writers and their dogs—these five miniature biographies allow unparalleled intimacy with women of genius in their hours of domestic ease and inner vulnerability.
As mass media burgeoned in the years between the first and second world wars, so did another phenomenon—celebrity. Beginning in Hollywood with the studio-orchestrated transformation of uncredited actors into brand-name stars, celebrity also spread to writers, whose personal appearances and private lives came to fascinate readers as much as their work. Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars profiles seven American, Canadian, and British women writers—Dorothy Parker, Anita Loos, Mae West, L. M. Montgomery, Margaret Kennedy, Stella Gibbons, and E. M. Delafield—who achieved literary celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s and whose work remains popular even today.
Faye Hammill investigates how the fame and commercial success of these writers—as well as their gender—affected the literary reception of their work. She explores how women writers sought to fashion their own celebrity images through various kinds of public performance and how the media appropriated these writers for particular cultural discourses. She also reassesses the relationship between celebrity culture and literary culture, demonstrating how the commercial success of these writers caused literary elites to denigrate their writing as "middlebrow," despite the fact that their work often challenged middle-class ideals of marriage, home, and family and complicated class categories and lines of social discrimination.
The first comparative study of North American and British literary celebrity, Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars offers a nuanced appreciation of the middlebrow in relation to modernism and popular culture.
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