The Feminist Companion to Literature in English

Woman Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present

Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy

View Inside Price: $60.00


October 24, 1990
1252 pages, 6 x 9 1/8
ISBN: 9780300048544
Cloth

Out of Print

Women writers have long been slighted in standard bibliographies, directories, biographical dictionaries, and literary histories.  This unique volume—the first fully international biographical and topical guide to women writers—redresses a long-standing inequity.  The book is the result of extensive new research into original sources by editors Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy and by some fifty specialist contributors.  Serving as consulting editors in the later stages were Barbara Christian, Margaret Ferguson, Margaret Homans and Elaine Showalter.

The volume features female literary figures from Britain, Ireland, and North America, as well as from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.  It includes every type of woman author-from poets, novelists, and dramatists to diarists, translators, autobiographers, and other nonfiction writers.  Some are already part of the established canon of literature and have been the subjects of many works of criticism, while others have been victims of repeated condescension and inaccuracy or are almost entirely unknown.  Most of the entries are biographical, and each of these not only outlines the life and work of its subject but also sets her in the context of her time and makes clear her importance or interest today.  These biographical entries comment on and sometimes quote the author’s writings, both published and unpublished, and selected criticism is cited where it exists.  In addition to the biographies, there are also key topic entries dealing with important genres and movements such as autobiography, feminist theory and film criticism, and slave narratives.  All entries are alphabetically arranged, and a separate list of entry headings and cross-references enables readers to pursue particular interests. 

The book will be an essential reference work not only for scholars involved in the study of women’s literature in English but also for those working in feminist criticism, history, and literary studies generally.     

"A book that should enable the study of women writers to take a large step forward. . . . The editors have traveled every era up to the present day, stopping only at writers who first works have been published since 1983."—Bookseller

"[An] invaluable new reference guide. . . . The Feminist Companion comes as a timely and welcome gift. Miraculously fat (some 1,200 pages), densely packed with information about more than 2,700 women writers from the Middle Ages to the present, the book has been meticulously researched by some 75 contributors and carefully planned by its three editors. Along with compact but lucidly written and often vividly detailed profiles of women authors . . . the book includes a range of topic entries on historical issues such as abolition and spiritualism, on genres such as detective fiction and 'utopias' and on current critical movements such as black feminist criticism and lesbian feminist criticism. . . . The editors of The Feminist Companion together with the contributors to the volume, have succeeded brilliantly. One wishes, indeed, that some of the literary women whose lives and works they explore were here to read the book."—Sandra M. Gilbert, Newsday

"From stripper Gypsy Rose Lee to fourteenth-century recluse Julian of Norwich, this long-awaited, massive volume features 2,700 biographical entries of literary figures from Britain to Africa, North America to New Zealand—from the Middle Ages to the present."—Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle

"Long-awaited and monumental. . . . Timely. . . . The book details not only thousands of women writers who have been forgotten, but whole movements which have not been allowed by the writers of history to leave their mark. . . . As a cornerstone of a nascent critical tradition, The Feminist Companion will ensure both the visible continuity of the female voice and a recorded response to it. As such it is to be celebrated. . . . The Companion dramatically alters existing conceptions of women's literary history, but it does more than that. . . . This work will change the direction taken by feminist scholars and critics. . . . It will also be of use to the general reader, and should be in every university, local and high school library. Its accessibility and breadth of content will take feminist thinking from its sub-cult academic status towards achieving its main aim—changing mainstream culture by becoming part of it."—George Watt, Weekend Australian

"[A] useful reference. . . . A thoroughly useful addition to the literary woman's reference library."—Auberon Waugh, Sunday Telegraph

"The range of contemporary writing is marvellously wide, and it's exciting to see entries for little-known experimental writers. . . . This scholarly, generous book smacks of devotion, and will weigh down my shelves nicely for a long time to come."—Alison Fell, Scotsman

"It is a large, thick volume and it represents an immense job of work, carefully and elaborately conceived and crafted by the three named authors, with the aid of about 70 academic colleagues. The structure of this vast encyclopedia of women writers from 1400 to now, 2,700 entries arranged in alphabetical order, is massively secure: it encompasses the centuries. . . . The Feminist Companion to Literature in English must be owned by anyone who is engaged in the life of books. . . . It stands as a summary and conspectus of decades of scholarly work in the recuperation of women writers, and of the genres to which they were often relegated, from the margins of literary history. It also contributes significantly to that task of recovery. In other words, it is a book of great importance. . . . A triumph of recovery and sorting."—John Clute, Sunday Correspondent

"The perfect gift for that budding English major."—American Bookseller

"A hefty tome."—Lynne Van Luven, Edmonton Journal

"An indispensable reference source."—Ms.

"The biographical entries are covered in admirable depth given the scope of the project. [They] often include quotations from the writer's work and summaries of critical reaction, and are especially thorough in their inclusion of references to critical and biographical studies of the writer, interviews, and even, in some cases, the location of the writer's papers."—Frank L. Kurtz, Cite AB

"This compilation of biographical information on more than 2,700 women writing in English from the Middle Ages to about 1985 includes American, British, African, Asian, Commonwealth, Caribbean, and South Pacific women and covers a range of types of material, from poetry, novels, and drama, to diaries and other nonfiction. The scope is more comprehensive than that of biographical sources focused on genre, period, nationality, or region. . . . Additional entries on key topics, e.g., autobiography, science fiction, feminist theory, and slave narratives, are interspersed with individuals' biographies. A list of frequently cited works and indexes of topics, names in chronological groups, and cross-references from various forms of names are included at the end of the biographical descriptions."—Choice

"[An] authoritative tome. . . . 2,700 thoughtful, spirited entries ranging from stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, author of The G-String Murders . . . to medieval visionary and recluse Julian of Norwich. . . . A most impressive work that can be used both literally and figuratively as a club to subdue stubborn sexists."—Los Angeles Times

"An enthusiastic introduction by the editors outlines the scope and methodology of this handbook—an inclusive female canon of English writing. . . . The breadth of this one-volume work is impressive and provides fascinating browsing."—Booklist

"In addition to thoroughly researched, incisive, well-written biobibliographies of authors from Sappho and Mme. de Sévigné to Ann Beattie, this volume contains entries on genres, events, and institutions important to the history of women's writing, plus critical introductions to leading schools of feminist theory. Refreshingly inclusive and dispassionate, the Companion proposes neither a canon nor a 'correct' approach to the authors of their productions. As such, it will remain a vital resource for general readers and specialists well into the next century."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"Finally we have a source that presents for the first time a comprehensive reference work covering the full spectrum of women writers who have used the English language as their medium of expression. . . . The Feminist Companion to Literature in English establishes a rich field of reference from which many readers and scholars will begin their explorations and to which they will often return."—Sarah Barbara Watstein, American Libraries

"Over 2,700 entries of 500 words on a very great variety of authors, the well-known, the neglected, the lost and recovered. . . . Crucial for every college and research library and every scholar's reference shelf."—English Language Notes

"The Feminist Companion to Literature in English is itself the product of impressive feminist companionship. . . . The gaze is unblinkingly on women's lives as the ground from which women's writing springs. . . . As a reference book, it scores extremely high. The coverage is massive: over 2700 literary lives summarised, many if not most for the first time. . . . All reference books contain error, but the level here must be among the lowest."—John Sutherland, London Review of Books

"The scope is resolutely international and the sweep, truly historical. . . . This volume is certain to be a box-office hit."—American Literature

"The sketches depict the conditions in which the women writers lived and wrote. No entry runs more than five hundred words but the writing is precise and informative and has verve."—Patricia Smith Butcher, RQ

"A helpful, intelligent biographical compendium of women writers, which ranges from the early days of literary expression . . . to the late 1980s, and includes all manner of creative activity, from diarists and playwrights to poets and romantic novelists . . . as well as some brief entries on specific subjects (diaries, historical feminist criticism, etc.). . . . Each entry, compressed into a mere five hundred words or less, strives, beyond dry facts, to give a `sense' of the biography and the work, and in this the editors have broken fresh ground and splendidly succeeded."—Anais

"One of the most comprehensive guides to women's studies available today. . . . Its well-researched, economical entries . . . supply a wealth of information that any reader interested in women's studies will find invaluable. Recommended for both university and community libraries."—Lynn F. Williams, American Reference Books Annual

"The Feminist Companion is a splendid, indispensable book. . . . It is well written and encourages scholarship by telling you what needs to be done. . . . This is a reference book you can read, and read with delight. The Companion is indeed most companionable."—Jocelyn Harris, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

"The breadth of coverage and the well-edited entries combine to make this a rare example of an informative and readable biographical dictionary."—Literary Research Guide

"The editors have. . . offered subsequent scholars a feast of information impeccably researched, scrupulously detailed, and freshly presented. The Feminist Companion has not only documented a complex and monumental tradition of women writers in English, but it has also created inexhaustible opportunities for new scholarship in this field."—Peggy Thompson, Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography

Selected as an Outstanding Reference Source in 1990 by American Library Association's Reference and Adult Services Division