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A Jury of Her Peers, by Elaine Showalter

- Abstract

Elaine Showalter has long been on the forefront of feminist literary criticism. As a young professor in the heady days of the 1970s, she pioneered “gynocriticism,” which she intended as a corrective to the so-called “linear absolutes of male literary history.” Scholars, she wrote, need to “stop trying to fit women between the lines of the male tradition, and focus instead on the newly visible world of female culture,” and to that end, she began working to compile a history of this new “feminist poetics.”

In her study of British women writers, A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing (1977), she traced the evolution of women’s writing, dividing it into three distinct phases: “feminine,” a phase of imitating prevailing standards; “feminist,” a phase of protest against the indignities suffered by women; and “female,” a phase of self-discovery and search for a female aesthetic.

About the Author

Cheryl Miller, a new contributor, is a 2007 Phillips Foundation fellow in journalism and the editor of Doublethink magazine.