Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why Women Writers need more...

Here's an interesting Q&A session with Elaine Showalter on her new book: A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (Knopf)

I came across Showalter a few years ago when studying 19th century novels, and I can still remember her extracted essay in my critical reader, in fact I quoted from it in a good few of my own essays that year. That essay came from a book on English Women Writers, and her new book, a survey of American Women Writers, is no mean feat given the broad scope of American literary endeavours.

The title of Showalter's survey I recognise. "A Jury of her Peers" is also the title of a story by Susan Glaspell, which I also studied along the way to my literature degree (and which I loved very much) you can read it here, still as fresh as it was when it was written in the early part of the 20th c. If you've never read it, you should give it a go - it's marvelous.

I point this up, because Nuala Ni Chonchuir recently wrote about feminism and writing, with relation to Irish Women Writers over at which touches on the same sort of points: how do we go about getting real Irish women's writing - literary writing - a better deal and more notice in the canon.

There's plenty of reading in both articles to make you think about how literary canons get formed, but I leave that for another day's argument.


Liam Guilar said...

"how do we go about getting real Irish women's writing - literary writing - a better deal and more notice in the canon."

Do you mean how do living writers get more notice/acess? Or how do you go about revaluing the dead who have been ignored? Both necessary but perhaps different projects?

Rachel Fox said...

I'd never heard of Glaspell (which is maybe significant in itself...) but I enjoyed reading the story very much. It reminded me of DH Lawrence stories we read at a way (how men and women write is so often not really that different...the differences are much more to do with how women are viewed, grouped, overlooked, the Glaspell story illustrates so well!). Things are improving in many ways (in literature anyway) but there's a lot of tired old history to rewrite... or rethink...
'A Jury of her Peers' is so vivid - so much a play or film in a story - but I see from looking her up now that Glaspell was a playwright too.
Thanks for the introduction.

Unknown said...

Rachel, 'A Jury' was also a stage play too. It is very filmic the way it's told. You can 'see' the story unfold in your mind's eye. Glad you took the time to enjoy it!

Liam, I do mean living writers in this particular case, but you could also think of those who have passed out of our notice (and this world's mortal coil) and are not as well known as their work should be. As you say, both different projects, but necessary.

Coirí Filíochta said...

I remeber the first time i met Gabriel Rosenstock at a do in the irish writers centre, at the centre of gravity in any gathering, the drinks table, and both of us relaxed with a few snifters, and he told me, 100 books he's written and essentially any reputation we get in the canon is gonna be after we are dead.

*when the sheeps and goats get sorted* was the phrase he used. *writing for the grandkids* - and i knew what he meant.

Poetry is its own reward, and i think because the Mossbawn magus is the current centre of gravity in not only irish but global poetry in the English language, we take our cue from him, and might confuse the plaudits with the writing.

He says himself, the awards mean zip when it comes to writing a poem. nice of course, but essentially, irrelevant.

The reason he's so feted is because of the writing, and he has always maintained it is essentially a spiritual business, it just so happens that his talent, life and work coincided with the forces of fate as they have, like Yeats.

If we look at Kavanagh, the top poet between Yeats and Heaney, an alcoholic in a bedsit laughed at buy the people controlling the various literature quangos who no dount thought themselves very seriouis and important, little knowing that they would be forgotten and the fella they thought a nobhead, when the goats and sheep were sorted, got the laurel sweater.

Prizes, canons, they mean nothing, we live one life, and worrying about artificial constructs and one;'s place in 'em, uis a waste.

Women are taken seriously, the ones who take themselves so and write the top gear. I think things have moved on as there as many if not more women getting published now than men.

Unknown said...

Funny, I remember a friend saying the same thing: long after you're dead people may read your work and form opinions on it. Thanks Desmond.

Coirí Filíochta said...

I've seen it steeped in the culture.

Poetry if you took it serious, you'd end up topping yourself.

You go into a room and everyone is pretending they cannot see each other, in a game of pecking orders. So a keen newb hangs about someone a few rungs up, who studiously ignores them, knowing they are after an audience, relishing the moment when they will turn, focus their attention on them and then as soon as someone else higher up the food chain appears, drop the gaze and move on.

Best to win a place with your writing and not play the game in person of *can't see yer*.

I am off to the House of the Dead, 15 Ushers Island now, O'Driscol Connolly and Hirsch, armed with my LS -10 radio recorder, and it will be interesting how they react to the request of recording them.

I will start with Hirsch or Connolly and depending on how they react, decide on asking O'Driscoll, but you have to be careful they're like nervous thoroughbreds suspecting a kidnap, steal their souls and start selling bootlegged poetry recitals.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Barbara, E. Annie Proulx has been probably for me the most mythical woman novelist, I have read all her novels. I read "Shipping News" twice and where did I buy it? Dawson Street, Waterstone's Dublin when it had won the Irish prize for the best non-Irish novel...then it won the Pulitzer. The last chapter of this work can be compared to a Beethoven symphony or a Jimi Handrix's solo.
Best, Davide

Unknown said...

Hi Davide, isn't that serendipty at its best - finding Annie P's work in Ireland of all places.

Desmond, I like that last para - like nervous thoroughbreds :)