No Fear of Fanny

Marilyn Butler

  • Fanny by Erica Jong
    Granada, 496 pp, £6.95, October 1980, ISBN 0 246 11427 4
  • The Heroine’s Text by Nancy Miller
    Columbia, 185 pp, £10.00, July 1980, ISBN 0 231 04910 2

Erica Jong’s Fanny has had a long gestation. In 1961, as an undergraduate, she was taught by the late Professor James L. Clifford, Johnson’s biographer, who had the admirable policy of inviting his class to imitate an 18th-century author instead of writing yet another academic paper on him. At the time, Ms Jong came up with a mock epic in heroic couplets in the manner of Pope, and a novella in the style of Henry Fielding. After several volumes of poetry and a runaway success with her bawdy modern picaresque, Fear of Flying, she still likes the challenge of the Clifford assignment. Fanny, being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones, is a quaint and belated substitute for the Columbia doctorate on 18th-century literature which Ms Jong abandoned in the mid-1960s.

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