Margaret Anne Doody

Margaret Anne Doody, an emeritus professor of literature at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, is the author of studies of Richardson and Frances Burney as well as The Daring Muse: Augustan Poetry Reconsidered and The True Story of the Novel. She has also published a number of detective novels set in Ancient Greece, in which Aristotle does the sleuthing. A long essay in the LRB, ‘Women Beware Men’, discussed the antifeminist backlash of the 1980s.

No Fol-de-Rols: men in suits

Margaret Anne Doody, 14 November 2002

What is it our mammas bewitches To plague us little boys with breeches? To tyrant Custom we must yield Whilst vanquished Reason flies the field. Our legs must suffer by ligation To keep the blood from circulation.

Our wiser ancestors wore brogues Before the surgeons bribed these rogues With narrow toes and heels like pegs To help to make us break our legs.

And to increase our other pains...

Royal Classic Knitwear: Iris and Laura

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 October 2000

Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel is both familiar and new. As it is an Atwood novel, we get eggs, a ravine, shit, snow, an ethereal double or sisterly doppelgänger, a bridge, a river, an act of violence – images and themes from her earlier fiction metamorphosed. The Blind Assassin also possesses the unusual lyrical sensuousness that distinguished Alias Grace (1996),...

The One We’d Like to Meet: myth

Margaret Anne Doody, 6 July 2000

Do real queens or goddesses get raped? Can beauty become vile? Such problems are raised by Helen of Troy, wife of King Menelaus, and by Sita, wife of Rama. Their stories (in multiple versions) are entertainingly retold and analysed by Wendy Doniger, a professor of the history of religions and of South-East Asian languages and civilisations. As Doniger – who can read Sanskrit and Hindi as well as Greek, Latin and modern languages – tells us, in the earliest versions of these stories (the Iliad and the Ramayana), both women are carried off by a rival to the husband king; both are ravished (or commit adultery). The kingly husband then fights his rival to retrieve his wife, in order to punish the abductor and his now guilty (or at least suspect) spouse. But the story of the stories of Helen and Sita does not end there.

I am an irregular verb: Laetitia Pilkington

Margaret Anne Doody, 22 January 1998

Laetitia Pilkington has been remembered chiefly as a source of information about Swift. In their happier days, she and her husband were friendly with Swift, whom it was in their interest to cultivate. She and her husband were rather small people, physically, socially and economically, but they were brave enough to have Swift as a visitor:

Boom and Bust

Margaret Anne Doody, 19 June 1997

‘The sexualised view of the breast,’ Marilyn Yalom asserts, is a Western phenomenon. Non-Western cultures, she assures us, ‘have their own fetishes’. This seems dismissive, running the risk of a National Geographic style of condescension, other cultures representing the (scorned) site of an (inferior) idyll in which everything hangs out, and there are no hang-ups. Women who have been ‘going abroad with their breasts uncovered since time immemorial’ are not necessarily bare of any cultural suspicions about them. Yalom has some of the vices and virtues of the writers of the Enlightenment in whose line she follows. If we see how changeable and culturally determined our view of ‘the breast’ is, we have, she believes, some chance of conquering the irrationality and superstition surrounding the fetishised object. What might happen then is not so clear.

Marshy Margins

Frank Kermode, 1 August 1996

Literary criticism seems to be putting on weight in its old age – Margaret Anne Doody’s book is well over three hundred thousand words and loaded with learning, which may appal the...

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Englamouring the humdrum

Rosemary Ashton, 23 November 1989

Gillian Beer’s Arguing with the past, a collection of essays published in recent years (with one, on Richardson and Milton, dating from as long ago as 1968), is richly written, contains...

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Alethea Hayter, 14 September 1989

In a spirited attempt to forestall criticism, Margaret Doody warns her readers that they may ‘feel horrified at what they they regard as a changeling-substitution of a mad Gothic feminist...

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