Scribblers of America, Unite! Are women writers
undervalued because of what they write or how we read?
By Katha Pollitt
Posted Monday, March 9, 2009, at 6:48 AM ET
A Jury of Her Peers.Elaine Showalter's A Literature of Their Own
: British Women Novelists
From Bronte to Lessing (1977) changed the way we read fiction by women by showing female writers in historical, political, and literary relation to one another, and doing it in prose that was energetic, enjoyable, and blessedly free of academic jargon. At the time, this was a controversial project. The previous year, Ellen Moers
' brilliant (and, sadly, out of print) Literary Women was attacked by Anne Tyler
for arguing that great women writers like Dickinson, Collette
, and Woolf
shared something like a literary tradition with lesser writers like Elizabeth Barrett Browning
and Fanny Fern
. You can see why Tyler bridled: After all, it was the misogynists who usually grouped women writers together, the better to dismiss them all—Nathaniel Hawthorne's "damned mob of scribbling women," churning out their hypersensitive derivative poems, their narrow, pedestrian domestic fiction. Women writers, the good ones, anyway, tended not to want to be put on the bookshelf next to the other women writers. More...