Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing, 1919–2013, British novelist, b. Kermanshah, Persia (now Iran) as Doris May Tayler. Largely self-educated, she was brought up on a farm in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and in 1949 moved to England, where her first novel, The Grass Is Singing (1950), was published. Widely regarded as one of the major writers of the mid-20th cent. and an influential figure among feminists, Lessing wrote on a wide variety of themes including Rhodesia, women, communism, and global catastrophe. Distinguished for its energy and intelligence, her work is principally concerned with the lives of women—their psychology, sexuality, politics, work, relationship to men and to their children, and their change of vision as they age. In her later books she mainly focused on efforts by individuals to resist society's pressures toward marginalization and acculturation.

Currents of realism and fantasy run through Lessing's works, with one dominant in some novels and both mingled in others. Her fiction includes a series of five novels collectively entitled The Children of Violence, which concern a semiautobiographical character named Martha Quest; the series includes Martha Quest (1952), Ripple from the Storm (1958), and The Four-Gated City (1969). A series of five science-fiction novels is collectively entitled Canopus in Argos: Archives, of which The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (1982) is best known. Her most influential novel, often regarded as her masterpiece, is The Golden Notebook (1962), a loosely autobiographical and psychologically acute study of the struggles of a woman writer; it served as an inspiration to the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s, and is now considered a classic of feminist fiction.

Among Lessing's other novels are Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971); The Summer before the Dark (1973); The Good Terrorist (1985); The Fifth Child (1988) and its sequel, Ben, in the World (2000); The Sweetest Dream (2001), a semiautobiographical tale of the 1960s; and The Grandmothers (2003). To dramatize the plight of unknown novelists, Lessing wrote two novels, The Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983) and If the Old Could (1984), under the pseudonym of Jane Somers; they were ignored by critics until Lessing revealed their true authorship. She is well known for her short stories and also wrote essays, e.g., Time Bites (2005). Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007.

See her volumes of autobiography, Under My Skin (1994) and Walking in the Shade (1997) and her part-novel, part-memoir Alfred & Emily (2008); biographies by A. Myles (1990) and C. Klein (2000); studies by R. Rubinstein (1979), I. Homquist (1980), M. Knapp (1984), C. Sprague and V. Tiger (1986), J. Pickering (1990), and M. Rowe (1994).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Doris Lessing: Selected full-text books and articles

Doris Lessing: The Alchemy of Survival By Carey Kaplan; Ellen Cronan Rose Ohio University Press, 1988
Doris Lessing By Harold Bloom Chelsea House, 1986
Women Shapeshifters: Transforming the Contemporary Novel By Thelma J. Shinn Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Mapping the Mind: Doris Lessing"
Nuclear Cassandra: Prophecy in Doris Lessing's the Golden Notebook By Henstra, Sarah Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 43, No. 1, Winter 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
"Born out of My Ownself": (Re)claiming the Self in Doris Lessing's under My Skin, Volume 1, 1919-1949 By Javangwe, Tasiyana D Journal of Literary Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2, June 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Sexual-Political Colonialism and Failure of Individuation in Doris Lessing's the Grass Is Singing By Aghazadeh, Sima Journal of International Women's Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, January-February 2011
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Our Mothers' Gardens: Doris Lessing's "Among the Roses." By Tyler, Lisa Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 31, No. 2, Spring 1994
The Celebration of the Fantastic: Selected Papers from the Tenth Anniversary International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts By Donald E. Morse; Marshall B. Tymn; Csilla Bertha Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "'What Dreams May Come?' Relativity of Perception in Doris Lessing's Briefing for a Descent into Hell" begins on p. 73, and "The Fifth Child: Lessing's Subversion of the Pastoral" begins on p. 123
Engendering the Subject: Gender and Self-Representation in Contemporary Women's Fiction By Sally Robinson State University of New York Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Repetition and Resistance in Doris Lessing's Children of Violence"
The Transcendent Adventure: Studies of Religion in Science Fiction/Fantasy By Robert Reilly Greenwood Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "The Evolution of Doris Lessing's Art from a Mystical Moment to Space Fiction"
From the Hearth to the Open Road: A Feminist Study of Aging in Contemporary Literature By Barbara Frey Waxman Greenwood Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: "Doris Lessing's 'The Summer before the Dark' and 'The Diaries of Jane Somers'" begins on p. 46
In Pursuit of the English By Doris Lessing Simon & Schuster, 1961
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