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Fay Weldon is a prolific writer, best known for her numerous novels, which focus on the same issues as her drama—the lives and communities of women, the politics of marriage, and the ways that sexual politics affect relationships between women. Her novels are popular both in Britain and the United States and have been translated into many languages. Besides her fiction for adult readers, she has published several children’s books.

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Weldon has also written television and radio plays, including original work, episodes of series, and adaptations of existing works such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813). In addition, she has published nonfiction books, including ones on writers Jane Austen and Rebecca West and essays on writing.

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Fay Weldon’s drama is notable for its humorous treatment of women’s issues. Her subject matter echoes feminist concerns since the mid-1960’s, and Weldon’s humor encourages the audience to be receptive to her messages.

Weldon’s awards include a 1973 Writers Guild Award, the Giles Cooper Award for best radio play for Polaris in 1978, nomination for the Booker McConnell Prize in 1979, the Society of Authors Traveling Scholarship in 1981, and the Los Angeles Times Award for fiction in 1990.

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Fay Weldon is a prolific author of novels and teleplays. Her best-known novel, The Life and Loves of a She Devil (1983), was made into a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) drama and a Hollywood film. Her numerous plays for television, primarily the BBC, include a 1971 award-winning episode of Upstairs, Downstairs and a 1980 dramatization of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice (1813). Weldon has also written plays for radio and the theater, plus nonfiction and the children’s books Wolf the Mechanical Dog (1988), Party Puddle (1989), and Nobody Likes Me (1997).

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Fay Weldon’s novel The Heart of the Country (1987) won the 1989 Los Angeles Times book prize. Two other novels, Praxis (1978) and Worst Fears (1996), were finalists for the Booker McConnell Prize and the Whitbread Literary Award, respectively.

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Fay Weldon began her writing career with plays for radio, television, and theater, but she soon transferred her efforts to novels, and it is her novels for which she has become best known. She has also published short stories and a good deal of nonfiction. The latter includes a biography of Rebecca West; an introduction to the work of Jane Austen in fictional form, Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen (1984); an “advice book” for modern women, What Makes Women Happy (2006); an autobiography, Auto da Fay (2002); and a collection of her journalism, Godless in Eden (1999). Her collections of short fiction include Moon over Minneapolis: Or, Why She Couldn’t Stay (1991) and Wicked Women (1995). She has also put her comic gifts to work in three books for children, Wolf the Mechanical Dog (1988), Party Puddle (1989), and Nobody Likes Me (1997).

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In addition to a successful career as an advertising copywriter, Fay Weldon has enjoyed a long career as a television scriptwriter, a playwright (for television, radio, and theater), and a novelist. Her radio play Spider (1972) won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Radio Play in 1973, and Polaris (1978) won the Giles Cooper Award for Best Radio Play in 1978. Weldon has earned growing acclaim for her humorous fictional explorations of women’s lives and her biting satires that expose social injustice, and her novel Praxis was nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize. In 1983, Weldon became the first woman chair of judges for the Booker Prize. She was recognized for her many achievements in 1997, when she received the Women in Publishing Pandora Award. In 2000, she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Bibliography

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Barreca, Regina, ed. Fay Weldon’s Wicked Fictions. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1994. A collection of eighteen critical essays, five by Weldon herself, dealing with leading themes and techniques in her fiction and various issues raised by it, such as her relation to feminism and her politics and moral stance. A few essays focus on specific novels, but others are relevant to both her short and long fiction. Includes “The Monologic Narrator in Fay Weldon’s Short Fiction,” by Lee A. Jacobus. Essays by Weldon include “The Changing Face of Fiction” and “On the Reading of Frivolous Fiction.”

Cane, Aleta F. “Demythifying Motherhood in Three Novels by Fay Weldon.” In Family Matters in the British and American Novel, edited by Andrea O’Reilly Herrera, Elizabeth Mahn Nollen, and Sheila Reitzel Foor. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997. Cane points out that in Puffball, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, and Life Force, dysfunctional mothers produce daughters who are also dysfunctional mothers. Obviously, it is argued, Weldon agrees with the feminist position about mothering, that it cannot be improved until women cease to be marginalized.

Dowling, Finuala. Fay Weldon’s Fiction. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1998. An examination of the themes and techniques in Weldon’s fiction, with emphasis on the novels but relevance to the short fiction as well.

Faulks, Lana. Fay Weldon. Twayne’s English Authors series 551. New York: Twayne, 1998. An introduction to Weldon’s life and work. Focusing on the novels, Faulks sees Weldon’s work as “feminist comedy” contrasting with feminist writing that depicts women as oppressed. Also examines Weldon’s experiments with narrative techniques.

Haffenden, John. “Fay Weldon.” In Novelists in Interview. London: Methuen, 1985. Weldon discusses her life and her inspirations for and attitudes toward writing. The topic discussed at the greatest length is Weldon’s feminism; she explains that what she writes is feminist because she is a feminist. Contains a selected bibliography of the author’s works at the time of publication.

Mitchell, Margaret E. “Fay Weldon.” In British Writers. Supplement 4 in Contemporary British Writers, edited by George Stade and Carol Howard. New York: Scribner’s, 1997. A very comprehensive study of Weldon’s life and work. A lengthy but readable analysis is divided into sections on “Weldon’s Feminism,” “The Personal as Political,” “Nature, Fate, and Magic,” “Self and Solidarity,” and “Fictions.” Contains a biographical essay and a bibliography.

Salzmann-Brunner, Brigitte. Amanuenses to the Present: Protagonists in the Fiction of Penelope Mortimer, Margaret Drabble, and Fay Weldon. New York: Peter Lang, 1988. Examines the women in these authors’ works, with opportunities for some comparisons and contrasts.

Weldon, Fay. “Towards a Humorous View of the Universe.” In Last Laughs: Perspectives on Women and Comedy, edited by Regina Barreca. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1988. A short (three-page) article about humor as a protection against pain, with perceptive comments about class-related and gendered aspects of humor. Although Weldon herself does not draw the connections specifically, the reader can infer much from her comments about the role of humor in her own work.

Wilde, Alan. “‘Bold, But Not Too Bold’: Fay Weldon and the Limits of Poststructuralist Criticism.” Contemporary Literature 29, no. 3 (1988): 403-419. The author focuses primarily not on Weldon’s work but on literary theory, using The Life and Loves of a She-Devil as an arena to pit poststructuralism against New Criticism. The argument is at times obscure, but Wilde offers some useful comments regarding moderation versus extremism in this novel.

Zylinska, Joanna. “Nature, Science, and Witchcraft: An Interview with Fay Weldon.” Critical Survey 12, no. 3 (2000): 108-122. Weldon discusses her writing and the inspirations for it. While the interview primarily concerns Weldon’s novels, her comments are helpful for understanding the themes of her drama as well.

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