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A Literature Of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing Paperback – 7 May 2009

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A Literature Of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing + The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-century Literary Imagination (Yale Nota Bene) + The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844084965
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844084968
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.5 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Elaine Showalter's proceedings in this book, both as historian and as literary critic, are sane, illuminating, fascinating and wise (A.S. BAYATT, THE TIMES)

Book Description

* Revised and expanded edition with a new introduction and postscript, published to coincide with Elaine Showalter's new hardback, A JURY OF HER PEERS

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Chamberlain on 2 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It starts out very defensive of the criticism Showalter has had, but once you move past that into the substance of the book it's very informative.

It's not the critical text she's quoted from most often (in the other texts I've read) as that is generally The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980 but it's a sound criticism of women writers and women characters in a male world, whether and where there's a difference in style, reception and expectations, and the relevance within female circles in history. It's a very interesting analysis of British novels written by women and it's clearly well researched and she uses many references to back up her points.

It's missing Aphra Behn, unfortunately, and a few other earlier British writers, but it does what it says on the tin: Bronte to Lessing.

It's a book of it's time (1977) and looks at the double standard in literary (and other) criticisms, but it does miss things from other perspectives for example race and class, but Showalter holds her hands up to this in this 2009 edition. So I've given it 5 stars for being great in it's own world, less 1 star for being slightly dated and not quite broad enough from a 2011 perspective.

Recommended for study and academic reasons but not really for general reading unless you're particularly interested in the authors it covers (Bronte, Woolf, Eliot, Austen, Drabble, Lessing etc).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Books4women on 7 May 2010
Format: Paperback

- - Synopsis - -

A Literature of their Own.

British Women Novelists from Charlotte Bronte to Doris Lessing.

In this brilliant study of British women novelists, Elaine Showalter traces the development of their fiction from 1800s onwards.

This original, refreshing and sometimes controversial book not only includes assessments of famous writers such as the Brontes, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Drabble and Doris Lessing, but also presents critical appraisals of Mary Braddon, Rhoda Broughton and Sarah Grand - to name but a few of those prolific and successful Victorian novelists - once household names, now largely forgotten.

Examining the lives and work of women novelists presenting a invaluable record of the woman writer and the culture she has reflected from generation to generation.

The result is an invaluable record of generations of women writers and the way in which their work reflects the social changes of their time.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Literature of Their Own is Dr. Elaine Showalter's survey of British women authors from the Brontes to today 22 Jun. 2009
By C. M Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone familiar with literary criticism recognizes the name of Elaine Showalter Ph.D. Showalter is an emrita professor of Princeton University who is the most famous feminine literary critic. Her new book "A Jury of Her Peers" on female authors in the USA has been reviewed by me on Amazon.
Like that later work I find "A Literature of Their Own" to be outstanding. Showalter's title was influenced by Virginia Woolf's famous essay " A Room of Their Own" in which she argued that for women to be able to write fiction they needed their own income, a quiet room and a spirit of androgyny.
Showalter reports that in typical English Literature courses there are only a quartet of major female authors who are highlighted. These women are Jane Austen; the Brontes; George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. Showalter in this 1977 book (which developed out of her doctoral dissertation) aims to introduce modern readers to many of th worthy women authors who lived in England from the 1840s to such modern female artists as Angela Carter, Doris Lessing and Margaret Drabble.
Showalter shows how women had to face great odds to have their works published due to the Victorian belief in the inferiority of the female brain. Women were also restricted in their use of explicit language and sexual matters being regarded as "The Angel of the Household.
Women did gain ground in the publishing industry in the 1880-90s producing sensational fiction by such authors as Mary Ellen Braddon and also suffragate novels and periodical journalism.
This book is not the easiest read for a layperson new to female literature in Great Britain. The most interesting parts of the book were her discussions of the lives and careers of George Eliot (pseudonymn for Mary Ann Evans), the Brontes and especially Virginia Woolf.
The book should be required reading in any English Literature collegiate level courses. Elaine Showalter has done pioneering research on
a rich field of literary gold that more scholars and readers should familiarize themelves with in an effort to be well informed. The English woman should be proud of the literary endeavors of her sisters who weathered great hardships and challenges to produce stellar literature!
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Readable Critical Look at British Women Novelists 25 July 2011
By Barbara J. Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.
9 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Literature of Their Own 23 May 2000
By apple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am a student from Taiwan. When I read the article- "Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness" from Showalter,Elaine,I really like it and want to read more about her's book. But in Taiwan,I could n't got more news about this. I was so excite to find this 'amazon' shop and hope can get more news about Feminist criticisms. Finally, thank you very much that provided for me.
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