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 Henry Louis Gates, chairman of the African-American Studies Department at Harvard, had bought at auction the unpublished manuscript of the ‘earliest known novel by a female African-American slave and probably the earliest known novel by a black woman anywhere’.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...

In the introduction to her new book, Touching Feeling, the queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick describes its strange and haunting black and white cover photograph as ‘the catalyst that impelled me to assemble the book in its present form’. It depicts a woman clumsily embracing an object that resembles an enormous wasps’ nest made of sticks and twine. The woman’s eyes...

How to Be Good: Carol Shields

Elaine Showalter, 11 July 2002

The debate about women’s writing – is it too restricted, domestic and love-obsessed, in contrast to the more sweeping, historical, socially aware and experimental novels of men? – has been going on since Jane Austen’s day. Charlotte Brontë was one who rejected Austen’s plot, which she called ‘a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden’....

What are academic instincts, and are they about more than survival? For Frederick Crews, emeritus professor of English at Berkeley, literary study in the university is a Darwinian battle for power and status, with professors ‘teaching the conflicts’ as they claw their way up the academic ladder. For Marjorie Garber, William R. Kenan Jr Professor of English at Harvard, the...

Diary: At Sundance

Elaine Showalter, 22 February 2001

It’s 5 a.m. and we are bundled up like Sherpas in our boots and sheepskins, boarding the plane to Utah with a contingent of young New Yorkers with pony tails talking into cellphones and carrying skis. They are buyers, development executives, actors, journalists, publicists, directors and producers, heading for the Sundance Film Festival, where they will wheel and deal. We are not here...

Fade to Greige: Mad for the Handcuff Bracelets

Elaine Showalter, 4 January 2001

One of the​ biggest draws in New York this season is the Armani retrospective at the Guggenheim. Designed by the Post-Modern artist Robert Wilson, who has draped the Frank Lloyd Wright spiral ramps with white gauze, bathed the museum in patchouli and musk, and created a Japanese soundtrack to accompany the show, the exhibition is a perfect example of the blend of fashion, art, commerce and...

Prada Queen: shopping

Elaine Showalter, 10 August 2000

‘Shopping for pleasure’: is the title tautological or oxymoronic? On one side, the joys of shopping seem almost axiomatic, especially now that every newspaper and magazine offers tips on how to do it, and Zagat is about to bring out a series of retail-tourist guidebooks. In a recent poll taken in London, more than a quarter of respondents said that shopping was what they liked best about the city. In her fashion guidebook, Mimi Spencer exhorts her readers to ‘shop for England … just for the sheer entertainment value of it all’. Suzy Gershman, the American author of Born to Shop: Great Britain, is ‘so enamoured’ of the January sales that she recommends flying in from Cleveland or Omaha for a long weekend. On the other hand, there are – there actually are – women living in Zone 1 who hate to shop, and many feminists who regard shopping as selfishness, frivolity or political deviance. When I wrote an essay for American Vogue a few years ago on my own fondness for department stores, catalogues and shopping malls, I was attacked by academic radicals as the Marie Antoinette of the MLA, whose answer to the sweated and unemployed must be ‘Let them wear Prada.’

Joe Orton came 16th this year in the National Theatre’s poll of the hundred top playwrights of the century. Not bad for someone who failed the 11-plus, spent six months in prison, and was bludgeoned to death at the age of 34. He wrote Between Us Girls in 1957, after he had ended a period of collaboration with his lover and mentor Kenneth Halliwell. A classics scholar and failed actor, Halliwell was devoted to the gay literary canon avant la lettre, and had tutored Orton in the homosexual literary tradition from the Greeks to Genet. ‘Together,’ Francesca Coppa writes in her excellent introduction to the book, ‘they attempted to write works with a distinctively homosexual sensibility, and their early novels are all profoundly influenced by the style of Halliwell’s literary idol, Ronald Firbank.’ They co-authored five ponderously Firbankian novels, camply titled Lord Cucumber, The Silver Bucket, The Mechanical Womb, The Last Days of Sodom and The Boy Hairdresser. None ever made it into print.‘

The posthumous English publication of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s mammoth novel Shadows on the Hudson has created such a tumel. Critics have been arguing about the quality of the novel, originally serialised in 1957-58 in the New York Yiddish newspaper the Forward; and about the reasons Singer did not have it translated during his lifetime. It has been compared to the work of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but also condemned as a melodramatic mishmash. First, Richard Bernstein (last December in the New York Times) called it ‘a startling, piercing work of fiction with a strong claim to being Singer’s masterpiece’. Bernstein kvelled about its ‘largeness, the depth and complexity of its exorbitantly vivid, intelligent characters’ and Singer’s ‘skill in weaving into a seamless tapestry various disorderly responses to the savagery of life’. But then another New York Times reviewer, Lee Siegel, called it a ‘chaotic, rambling, repetitive and parochial’ book in a ‘plodding translation’ – a ‘shapeless lump’ compared to Singer’s best stories, which are ‘hard diamonds of perfection’.’‘

Diary: My Year of Living Dangerously

Elaine Showalter, 2 April 1998

‘Where are your bodyguards?’ asked my London landlord, peering hopefully over my shoulder as I picked up the keys. It was an early warning of how great a disappointment I would be to my British friends. UK newspaper reports of American reactions to my book Hystories, published in March last year, had mentioned threats of assassination, and had described me as requiring constant protection. In the book, I argue that several contemporary phenomena – chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, recovered memory, multiple personality disorder, satanic ritual abuse and alien abduction – are hysterical epidemics, real disorders but caused by psychological conflicts rather than viruses, nerve gas, devil worshippers or extra-terrestrials. The book made a lot of people furious, but was hardly New Jersey’s Salman Rushdie.’‘

Hagiophagy

Elaine Showalter, 2 October 1997

In ‘Taking It Easy’, one of the stories in During Mother’s Absence (1993), Michèle Roberts provides a recipe for a deliciously female mode of creative imagination. Her heroine, a freelance short-story writer of many genres and pseudonyms (Alexis K. Triffel, Virginia Lindisfarne, Jay C. Dacey), leaves her London life with its perpetual diets, its writing ‘squeezed in’ between domestic errands and maternal obligations, its dual enemies of ‘sleep and food’, to stay for a few weeks in the house of her friend Angèle’s mother in South-West France. Here she hopes to overcome her writer’s block and fulfil her ambition to produce a collection of stories ‘rivalling those of Colette and Katherine Mansfield and Jean Rhys all put together’. Angèle passes on advice from her brother Jim, a painter: ‘You have to make the problem part of the subject. So, obviously what you should do is write a story about writer’s block.’

Good Girl, Bad Girl

Elaine Showalter, 5 June 1997

Call it the Zeitgeist, call it the return of the repressed, but personal memoir, intellectual autobiography, or the mixture of literary and confessional writing defined by Nancy Miller as ‘narrative criticism’ is changing the tradition of feminist academic writing. In books such as Patricia Williams’s Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor (1991), Alice Kaplan’s French Lessons: A Memoir (1993) and Marianne Hirsch’s Family Frames (1997), a generation of American feminist university teachers use their own experience to shed light on literary, linguistic, artistic, professional, pedagogic and academic issues; and use these categories to shed light on their own experience.

Gender Distress

Elaine Showalter, 9 May 1996

In her iconographic poem ‘Bleeding’ (1970), the American poet May Swenson presents a dialogue between a knife and a cut:

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter, 7 March 1996

At Kramerbooks, Washington’s best bookstore-café, there’s a menu of ‘Primary Colors Specials’, including Lasagne di Paul Begalanese and Pork Chop George Stephen-applesauce. There’s a copy prominently displayed in the new books section of the White House library, and 742,000 have been shipped to bookstores to meet the demand. It’s number one on the New York Times bestseller list; North American paperback rights have been sold for $1.5 million, and Mike Nichols has bought the movie rights for another million. Garry Trudeau has put it into Doonesbury. Street vendors in Washington are selling buttons that read ‘I am not Anonymous.’

Diary: Even Lolita must have read Nancy Drew

Elaine Showalter, 7 September 1995

In 1973, having finished a doctoral dissertation on Nabokov, Bobbie Ann Mason found herself compulsively rereading her favourite childhood books: series fiction about daring girl detectives, especially Nancy Drew. Admitting to such low tastes in the Seventies was like confessing a fondness for Hello! magazine today. Graduate schools regarded an interest in popular culture as a sign of intellectual frivolity, and demanded Leavisite vows (or appearances) of poverty and high culture. I still remember the shock and disdain of two senior professors whom my husband and I invited to join us at the original screen version of Village of the Damned; they restricted their movie-going to the annual Bergman film, always sufficiently depressing to count as Art. Thus Mason is quaintly self-conscious and defensive about her tastes, pointing out that while historians of children’s literature dismiss the series books as ‘bad habits’, they constitute the primary reading that shaped the desires and fantasies of millions of American girls; ‘even Lolita must have read Nancy Drew.’ In fact, 1973 was something of a turning-point for popular culture; Mason proudly notes that the ‘august MLA’ has just scheduled a seminar on juvenile series books. Anticipating the coming rise of cultural studies, Mason predicts the emergence of Scholars of Relevant Trivia, who say: ‘it’s okay for literate people to like kitsch.’

Meg, Jo, Beth and Me

Elaine Showalter, 23 March 1995

Who would have thought it? Little Women is on the American bestseller list again, with the name ‘Winona Ryder’ over the title instead of Louisa May Alcott, as if she had written the book. But maybe Ryder deserves top billing, for pulling people into the movies to see Alcott’s March sisters updated for the Nineties. Directed by Gillian Armstrong of My Brilliant Career, with Susan Sarandon as Marmee, the film has made Alcott not only relevant but even exciting for a new generation. In the wake of its success in the States, there are a slew of novelisations, adaptations for very young readers, and even a brand-new Alcott novel on the way – an unpublished thriller called A Long Fatal Love Chase, written in 1866 and rejected then as too sensational.’

Diary: At the Modern Language Association

Elaine Showalter, 9 February 1995

It’s always surreal arriving at the annual four-day meeting of the Modern Language Association. You land at a distant airport, check into a strange hotel, and there in the lobby are all the people you’ve ever known, former teachers, former students, ex-lovers, ex-spouses, old friends and (last year’s useful word) old frenemies – people you don’t like but may someday need. The conference attracts literary scholars from all over the world. Sipping espresso at an outdoor café, I met a Swiss critic of contemporary French fiction, on his first trip to the United States. He was shocked by American coffee, but calmly prepared for the MLA. ‘J’ai lu David Lodge,’ he boasted, brandishing his tattered copy of Small World.’’

Fifteen years on

Elaine Showalter, 20 October 1994

Fifteen years ago, having published their monumental study of 19th-century women writers, The Madwoman in the Attic, Sandra Gilbert, poet and professor at the University of California at Davis, and Susan Gubar, professor at Indiana University, planned a sequel: a feminist history of women’s writing in the 20th century. At first, they expected to complete it in just a few years, but they soon faced enormous obstacles in the material itself. The project they referred to as ‘Daughter of Madwoman’, or ‘Madwoman Meets the Lost Generation’, raised questions they had not had to confront in dealing with the more established writers of the Victorian Golden Age. Which writers among an enormous group would they choose to discuss in a modern canon still in flux? How could they achieve critical detachment when they themselves were so enmeshed in contemporary literary debates? How could they sort out the effects of a female literary tradition on both literary daughters and literary sons?

Risky Business

Elaine Showalter, 22 September 1994

Linda Wagner-Martin, a highly respected scholar of American literature who teaches at the University of North Carolina, was bewildered by the hostile reception in Britain of her biography of Sylvia Plath, published in 1987. Not only had she run into major conflicts with the Plath estate, she explains in her preface to Telling Women’s Lives, but some critics saw her as both an ‘unethical commercial writer’ and a radical feminist. ‘Who was this woman who was under siege by the British critics? I asked my husband and children, students and friends: was I the same Linda Wagner-Martin they had always known?’ Despite their predictably reassuring replies, Wagner-Martin felt that her life if not her personality had been changed in the process of writing Plath’s life. ‘Telling a woman’s life,’ she writes, ‘had become a dangerous cultural and literary project.’

His Only Friend

Elaine Showalter, 8 September 1994

In the midst of writing his biography of Philip Larkin, Andrew Motion was contacted by a spiritualist who claimed to have been speaking to Larkin in the Beyond; later Larkin sent a posthumous word of approval for the book. Could the cosmic wires have been crossed and could the spiritualist have been talking to Martin Seymour-Smith? For this massive biography of Hardy – or ‘Tom’, as Seymour-Smith chummily calls him – has the vehemence of divine revelation and the fervour of personal mission. ‘I wrote Hardy,’ the author explains in a remarkable press release, because ‘never has such an indisputable giant … been so consistently maligned and abused for so long by the literary critics.’ The intention of his biography, according to the book-jacket, is ‘to restore Hardy to his rightful place as the greatest and most versatile English author after Shakespeare’.’…

Going underground

Elaine Showalter, 12 May 1994

Ours is not an age in which literary events get much attention, but the publication in the New Yorker last August of Janet Malcolm’s study of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes was an exception. Brilliantly packaged with reprints of the Plath poems which the New Yorker had originally published, the issue was a sell-out on both sides of the Atlantic, and for weeks no dinner party from Hampstead to the Hamptons was complete without a discussion of it. Now published as a book, The Silent Woman is ostensibly a scathing denunciation of the ethics of literary biography in general and a defence of Hughes and his formidable sister Olwyn in particular. Malcolm takes arms against the hordes of biographers, journalists, feminists and sensation-seekers who have mercilessly raked over the ashes of Plath’s life, often blaming Hughes for his infidelity during Plath’s life and his iron control of her copyrights since her death. ‘The pleasure of hearing ill of the dead is not a negligible one,’ she writes witheringly of their motives, ‘but it pales before the pleasure of hearing ill of the living.’ since Malcolm herself, however, has been involved in a notorious case about libel and invasion of privacy brought by the modest and reclusive Jeffrey Masson, the topical ironies of the book have attracted a great deal of attention in the United States. In the New York Times Book Review, Caryn James observed that ‘while the English fuss about poets’ graves, Americans gossip about litigation and celebrity journalists.’

Diary: On the Phi Beta Kappa Tour

Elaine Showalter, 10 March 1994

‘We’re ideally situated,’ said my host from the University of Lethbridge: ‘We’re three hours’ drive from Calgary and an hour from Glacier National Park.’ Not everyone would say the location was ideal but that sort of cheerfulness was typical of many academics teaching off the beaten path in the United States and Canada. Invited to do so by Phi Beta Kappa, the American university honour society, I spent most of the fall toting the torch of learning from sea to shining sea.

The Guru of Suburbia

Elaine Showalter, 16 December 1993

In the Seventies, I had a colleague who joined the cult of the Bhagwan Rajneesh. Returning to New Jersey in orange garments after a summer in India, David announced that he wanted to change his title in the university catalogue from ‘professor’ to ‘swami’; teach ‘The Wisdom of the East’ instead of ‘Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner’; and replace the furniture in his office with a simple prayer mat. His spiritual elevation seemed almost predestined to David, since his adoring parents had raised him to feel like the Messiah; in contrast, he recalled, his sister had had to settle for being the sister of the Messiah.

The Divine Miss P.

Elaine Showalter, 11 February 1993

Who is hotter than Mary McCarthy? Smarter than Susan Sontag? Funnier than Harold Bloom? Well, if you take her word for it, it’s Camille Paglia, come to set the world straight on the burning issues of our time: tenured radicals, date rape, the aesthetic evolution of Madonna. The self-styled genius and warrior woman seized public attention with her first book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), a sweeping, Strindbergian analysis of culture as the war of the sexes. But what really made her famous were her attacks on feminism and academia, coupled with her paeans to pop culture. Naming names and kicking butt, Paglia quickly became a media celebrity, who hit the gossip columns when the model Lauren Hutton took her to the National Motorcycle Show in Manhattan, and posed for Vanity Fair in full make-up and a bulging décolletage, her arms around the bare biceps of the two black bodyguards she calls ‘my centurions’. In the introduction to Sex, Art and American Culture, a bizarre grab-bag of book reviews, interviews, transcribed lectures, classroom notes and personal memorabilia, Paglia gleefully provides an annotated bibliography of all the news articles about herself, and attributes her fame to astrological cycles, the Zeitgeist, and a new Age of Aquarius: ‘At the end of the century and the millennium,’ she writes, ‘the culture has suddenly changed … Anti-establishment mavericks like me are back in fashion.’

The Straight and the Bent

Elaine Showalter, 23 April 1992

In 1895, at a café in Algiers, Oscar Wilde procured a young Arab musician for André Gide, and thereby launched the French writer into a new life. It probably wasn’t Gide’s first homosexual experience, but it was the one he credited in his journals with the initiation into his real sexual nature, the moment, he recalled, in which he began ‘to discover myself – and in myself the tables of a new law’. He felt that he had thrown off the suffocating constraints of a ‘worn-out ethical creed’, and joyfully embraced his true and liberated desire. In later books like Corydon (1924) and If I die (1926), he defended homosexuality as a mark of creative genius, a sexual nonconformity with affinities to other kinds of passionate rebellion.’’

Mr Horse and Mrs Eohippus

Elaine Showalter, 30 January 1992

In 1934, knowing that she had inoperable breast cancer, the American feminist intellectual Charlotte Perkins Gilman decided to finish the autobiography she had begun a decade before. Her fame as a writer and speaker had faded; she was no longer in demand on the lecture circuit, and all of her six books were out of print. In keeping with her stoic philosophy, Gilman had made the decision to end her life with chloroform. ‘Human life consists in mutual service,’ she wrote in her final chapter. ‘When all usefulness is over, when one is assured of unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one.’ She read her proofs, chose the photographs, and approved the cover; then, on 17 August 1935, three months before the date of publication, she carried out her plan.

Fame at last

Elaine Showalter, 7 November 1991

I met Anne Sexton six months before her suicide, in April 1974. My colleague Carol Smith and I were doing a series of interviews with women writers, and we had heard how Sexton and her friend Maxine Kumin had worked together for years, talking about their poems in long telephone sessions when neither of then could get out of the house. We wanted to ask them about their relationship as house-wives, friends and poets, and so it was arranged that they should come to give a joint poetry reading at Douglass College, where we taught, and that we should meet with them in the afternoon before the reading.

Slick Chick

Elaine Showalter, 11 July 1991

We all know the story. A brilliant, neurotic young American woman poet, studying on a fellowship at Cambridge, meets and marries the ‘black marauder’ who is the male poet-muse of her fantasies. Doubled and twinned – ‘one skin between us’, as she says; ‘two feet of one body’, as he says – they launch on the hard labour of poetic careers, supporting themselves on writing prizes and intermittent teaching jobs. She dreams that they will divide the kingdom of poetic fame; she will be ‘The Poetess of America’, as he will be ‘The Poet of England and her dominions’. But the marriage frays. Tied down to their two babies, frustrated at the slowness of success, she discovers that he is having an affair, and they separate. In the following months, she writes the greatest and angriest poems of her life, perhaps the greatest of her generation: but they are rejected by literary editors as ‘too extreme’. In the coldest winter of the century, at the age of 30, she commits suicide by gassing herself.’

Shakespeare’s Sister

Elaine Showalter, 25 April 1991

If Kate Chopin’s The Awakening had not existed, feminist criticism must have invented it. Here was a lost and indeed fallen 19th-century novel, an orphan of the critical storm, whose rescue in the 1960s captured all the themes of the emerging women’s liberation movement. Chopin’s heroine, Edna Pontellier, awakens from the New Orleans marriage in which she is a pampered chattel, first to her own sexuality, and ultimately to the claims of a selfhood beyond romance, family, even maternity, which impels her to defy ‘the soul’s slavery’ by walking naked into the sea: ‘She felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known … The water was deep, but she lifted her white body and reached out with a long, sweeping stroke. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.’

I wish she’d been a dog

Elaine Showalter, 7 February 1991

On 13 December 1938, the young writer Jean Stafford, visiting Boston from her hometown, Boulder, Colorado, agreed to go for a ride in his father’s Packard with her 21-year-old suitor Robert Lowell. They had met the year before at a Colorado Writers’ Conference, and Lowell had been courting her intensely through the mails. When she refused to marry him, however, Lowell went into a rage and crashed the car into an embankment. He was unhurt (the court later charged him with driving while intoxicated), but Stafford sustained massive injuries to her skull, nose and jaw that required five painful operations to repair. After the accident, she would always look battered, her eyes teary and ‘permanently welled-up’. As Lowell’s friend Blair Clark remarked, ‘there was about a 25 per cent reduction of the aesthetic value in her face.’

Baby-Sitter

Elaine Showalter, 14 June 1990

In an uncharacteristic moment of playfulness during her affair with Nelson Algren, Simone de Beauvoir called herself his ‘frog wife’. Although it echoed his tough-guy slang about their Paris-Chicago romance, the phrase has the ring of feminist fable. Like Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid, whose story Beauvoir wept over as a child, the frog wife is a changeling, unlike other women; pebbly and awkward, she cannot wed the prince. She is only his night-time consort in what Sartre and Beauvoir grandly termed their ‘morganatic’ marriage, waiting to be loved and released into her true kingdom of the body and mind.

Pen Men

Elaine Showalter, 20 March 1986

One of the more useful side-effects of the widely-publicised troubles at the International PEN Congress held this January in New York may ironically have been the new timeliness which Norman Mailer’s outbursts bestowed on feminist consideration of masculinity, misogyny and writing. Mailer, president of PEN and chief organiser and fundraiser for the huge writers’ conference, shed his new persona as serene literary statesman when he was confronted with an angry protest from women PEN members about the under-representation of women on the programme (16 out of 117 panelists). ‘There are countries in the world,’ he retorted, ‘where there are no good women writers.’ Furthermore, he told a large audience, ‘there are not that many women, like Susan Sontag, who are intellectuals first, poets and novelists second.’ Since ‘more men … are deeply interested in intellectual matters than women,’ he concluded, to have invited more women simply for the sake of fairness would have meant ‘lowering the level of discussion’, risking ‘mediocrity’.

Letter

The Divine Miss P

11 February 1993

Elaine Showalter writes: Incredible as it may seem to Camille Paglia and her clipping service, I missed the coverage of her Princeton appearance in the New York and New Jersey media, apart from the pre- and post-conference stories in the university newspapers. But I did attend her panel discussion, and my description of her comments and behaviour is accurate. As she parenthetically acknowledges, Paglia...

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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