Focusing particularly on the critical reception of Jane Austen, Charlotte BrontÃ« and George Eliot, Joanne Wilkes offers in-depth examinations of reviews by eight female critics: Maria Jane Jewsbury, Sara Coleridge, Hannah Lawrance, Jane Williams, Julia Kavanagh, Anne Mozley, Margaret Oliphant and Mary Augusta Ward. What they wrote about women writers, and what their writings tell us about the critics' own sense of themselves as women writers, reveal the distinctive character of nineteenth-century women's contributions to literary history. Wilkes explores the different choices these critics, writing when women had to grapple with limiting assumptions about female intellectual capacities, made about how to disseminate their own writing. While several publishing in periodicals wrote anonymously, others published books, articles and reviews under their own names. Wilkes teases out the distinctiveness of nineteenth-century women's often ignored contributions to the critical reception of canonical women authors, and also devotes space to the pioneering efforts of Lawrance, Kavanagh and Williams to draw attention to the long tradition of female literary activity up to the nineteenth century. She draws on commentary by male critics of the period as well, to provide context for this important contribution to the recuperation of women's critical discourse in nineteenth-century Britain.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Maria Jane Jewsbury and Sara Coleridge; Writing women's literary history: Hannah Lawrance, Jane Williams, and Julia Kavanagh; Anne Mozley; Margaret Oliphant and Mary Augusta Ward; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
Joanne Wilkes, educated at Sydney and Oxford Universities, is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
'This fine study draws extensively on published and unpublished letters, memoirs, manuscripts and a wide range of Victorian periodicals, to offer acute and detailed analyses of the writings of eight women critics. In exploring what these critics sensed was publicly acceptable in their own writing as well as the criteria they believed they should use in assessing the work of other women novelists, the book makes a major contribution to the study of gender in the Victorian novel and periodical press.' Catherine Waters, University of Kent, UK 'Ashgate has established a reputation for producing high-quality scholarly monographs, and this recent addition to their catalogue keeps their standard high. In this meticulously researched book, Joanne Wilkes covers new ground on the subject of how three leading nineteenth-century novelists - Jane Austen, Charlotte BrontÃ« and George Eliot - were read and reviewed by women critics. ... this monograph is readable and jargon-free, as well as intelligent. This makes a welcome change from much academic writing... this is splendid research; and enjoyable, too.' Transnational Literature '... this book is very much worth reading. Since Wilkes is both a trustworthy reader of texts and a reliable guide to a woman's career. I learned a good deal from her. The book is not flashy and it makes no big claims. But with the printed word now threatened by digital media and alternative forms of entertainment, I find it reassuring to know that books like this can still be produced, meticulously filling in missing information about forms of writing in the nineteenth century.' New Books Online 19 'The subtitle of this study does not do justice to the wide range of subjects and genres treated; although Wilkes gives significant attention to female critics' assessment of Austen, BrontÃ«, and Eliot, she also discusses biographies, histories, art histories, and works of literary theory written by women. ... reveals a richly diverse body of critical wo