A Jury of Her Peers (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
The daunting nature of Elaine Showalter’s task in A Jury of Her Peers is made apparent by simply noting that the book is the first comprehensive history and assessment of American women writers ever to be published. Even though feminist literary criticism and history have produced an impressive body of work, including several anthologies meant to recover neglected masterpieces and other significant work out of print and forgotten, no scholar has essayed a book-length overview of the achievements of women writers in the United States. To do so invites controversyas Showalter acknowledges in observing that feminist critics have hesitated to make qualitative judgments, wishing to be inclusive of the many women writers who for centuries have not received their due. She believes, however, that the first phase of fully acknowledging women writersthe discovery period begun in the 1970’sis over and that it is time to write a selective history and assessment of those women writers who belong in the American literary canon.
If Showalter had been content only to produce a work of literary history, she could have avoided some of the judgments that reviewers of her book have made concerning her choices. Some reviewers have questioned, for example, the decision to write about Pearl Buck but not Eleanor Clark when they see the latter as manifestly the superior writer. The answer to this question is perhaps that, because Buck was the first woman writer to...
(The entire section is 1689 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
America 200, no. 17 (May 25, 2009): 23-24.
Booklist 105, no. 9/10 (January 1, 2009): 35.
Commentary 127, no. 6 (June, 2009): 74-76.
Commonweal 136, no. 17 (October 9, 2009): 22-23.
The Economist 390, no. 8619 (February 21, 2009): 83-84.
Library Journal 134, no. 3 (February 15, 2009): 108.
New York Review of Books 56, no. 15 (October 8, 2009): 37-38.
The New York Times Book Review, March 8, 2009, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly 256, no. 1 (January 5, 2009): 40-41.
The Times Literary Supplement, May 8, 2009, pp. 11-12.
Weekly Standard 14, no. 42 (July 27, 2009): 32-34.
Women’s Review of Books 26, no. 4 (July/August, 2009): 5-7.
(The entire section is 66 words.)