Women and Literary History: "For There She Was"

Women and Literary History: "For There She Was"

Women and Literary History: "For There She Was"

Women and Literary History: "For There She Was"


"These essays by internationally renowned feminist scholars rethink the methods and content of contemporary feminist literary history. Examining the legacy of both traditional literary history and second-wave history of women's writing, the essays collected in Women and Literary History: "For There She Was" challenge the standard form of reading women's writing in isolation from men's, and contest the project of recovering "lost" women writers. The essays provide new research into women's literary history from the late seventeenth century to the Modernist period covering topics such as women's science and anti-slavery writing, midwifery, women and the novel, and lesbian literary history. Essays discuss the writing of Jane Sharp, Jane Barker, Anne Finch, Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Harriet Jacob, Phebe Lankester, Pauline Johnson, May Sinclair, Amy Levy, Edith Ellis, and Amy Wilson Carmichael." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Katherine Binhammer, Susan Brown, Patricia Clements, Isobel Grundy, and Jeanne Wood

Virginia Woolf ends Mrs Dalloway with the words we have used in our title: "For there she was." Following the rich and complex construction of the character who has come to represent the time in which she was created, these lines transform her instantly into history, suspend her in an ambivalent space between presence and absence. They make her the object of retrospection, pointing us back into the text as a kind of invitation to discover her again in this textual past. the words of Woolf's closing sentence, then, seem to us to describe the recreating task of this collection of essays: the attempt to find again the woman writer in the history during which she has left us so many records of her presence and absence. For there, indeed, she was.

The essays in this book have developed from papers at a conference on Women and Literary History hosted in Western Canada by the research team of the Orlando Project, a group which was called into being to produce the first large-scale history of women's writing in the British Isles. the issues in our minds as we planned the conference were these: Is it once again becoming possible to write literary history? If so, what ought to distinguish the new literary history from the old? and how is literary history to deal with women's writing?

The almost total absence of women writers from academic literary annals might suggest that they are hidden from history, or that they write secluded in some timeless separate sphere, or more simply that they do not meet the standards for admission. Scholarly work published in recent years has challenged each of these propositions and has undone them. It suggests, furthermore, that in a span of about a generation we have traveled an immense distance from the . . .

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