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Writing Women's Literary History

, 216 pages
October 1996



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Writing Women's Literary History

By championing the recovery of "lost" women writers and insisting on reevaluating the past, women's studies and feminist theory have effected dramatic changes in the ways English literary history is written and taught. In Writing Women's Literary History, Margaret Ezell critically examines these successful women's literary histories and applies to them the same self-conscious feminism that critics have applied to more traditional methods. According to Ezell, by relying not only on past male scholarship but also on inherited notions of "tradition," some feminist historicists replicate the evolutionary, narrative model of history that originally marginalized women who wrote before 1700. Drawing both on French feminisms and on recent historicist scholarship, Ezell points us to new possibilities for the recovery of early modern women's literary history.

Margaret J. M. Ezell is a professor of English at Texas A & M University. She is the author of The Patriarch's Wife: Literary Evidence and the History of the Family and editor of The Poems and Prose of Mary, Lady Chudleigh.

"Ezell's book is radical and revisionary, and especially interesting in its specificity and concentration on a neglected period of female writing. She is not afraid to take issue with established, even sacred, ideas in feminist writing, or to suggest that feminist literary criticism and history has been limited by its own prejudices and acceptance of questionable definitions of what is good and valid... Establishes many lost and missing names and texts within the margins of female literary history."

"From 'The Myth of Judith Shakespeare,' to 'Writings by Early Quaker Women,' Ezell's critique cuts a broad swath through women's literature."

"One hopes that her book will be read not only by scholars who have long agreed with her premise, but also by a wider audience that is unfamiliar with Renaissance genres and modes of publication."

"This engaging, revisionary book questions current notions of feminist literary historyincluding approaches to Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own and contributes significantly to new understandings of seventeenth-century women's writing. It is especially timely because feminism is in a particularly self-reflexive mood at the moment, and Ezell's approach is original in its attention to the early period."