Elaine Showalter

Elaine Showalter is the author of A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing, among other books.

A Perfect Eel: ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’

Elaine Showalter, 21 June 2012

‘There is no accounting for tastes,’ the Westminster Review declared in 1866. ‘Blubber for the Esquimaux, half-hatched eggs for the Chinese and Sensational novels for the English.’ The extraordinary popularity in the 1860s of sensation fiction, or ‘bigamy novels’, as these books were sometimes known, led critics to conclude that the genre was ‘a sign...

Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel, American Wife, based on the life of Laura Bush, and sympathetic to her political non-choices, has been getting attention alongside the self-exonerating memoirs and withering insider analyses piling up in the final weeks of the Bush presidency. In its positive assessment of the couple’s marriage (fictionally presented as healthy, affectionate and...

Every single one matters: The first black female novelist?

Elaine Showalter and English Showalter, 18 August 2005

On 11 November 2001, the New York Times announced a major literary discovery. Henry Louis Gates, chairman of the African-American Studies Department at Harvard, had bought at auction the unpublished manuscript of the ‘earliest known novel by a female African-American slave and probably the earliest known novel by a black woman anywhere’. According to the article, the novel, signed...

‘Be vigilant, informed and prepared,’ a sign on the Pennsylvania state highway flashes as my husband and I head out from Washington DC to Los Angeles. OK, but prepared for what? It’s the first of many signs that call us to attention on this September road trip through Bush Country. The last time we drove cross-country was in 1966, in our VW Bug, along with the baby and the...

The Snowman cometh: Margaret Atwood

Elaine Showalter, 24 July 2003

Margaret Atwood’s 11th novel delivers two huge surprises: a male protagonist and an action-movie plot. Atwood has never written a novel from a male point of view before, and John Updike was among the reviewers who complained that the men in The Blind Assassin* were mysterious and unlovable. Rather, she is known for her chronicles of women’s victimisation and resistance, and her...

Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist heroine sans pareil, didn’t approve of heroines. Great Women – or ‘icons’, as Elaine Showalter prefers to call the three centuries’...

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Sergeant Jones’s Sleeping-Bag

Michael Ignatieff, 17 July 1997

It adds greatly to the glamour of this book that its author was threatened for having written it. Her offence was to argue that many of the passing media events of our culture – chronic...

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Seven Veils and Umpteen Versions

Maria Tippett, 30 January 1992

I recently attended a lavish production of Richard Strauss’s opera Salome at the Staatsoper in Vienna. Directed by Boleslav Barlog, sung by the diva Mara Zampieri, and staged, in keeping...

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Separate Development

Patricia Craig, 10 December 1987

The fuss about gender continues. Feminist criticism has gone off in several odd directions lately, resorting more and more to jargon of the gynocentric, phallogocentric variety, and positing a...

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Dazeland

Andrew Scull, 29 October 1987

Most recent work on the history of psychiatry has tended to focus on the history of institutions, of ideas, and of the psychiatric profession itself, and to ignore those for whom this vast...

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