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Abstract Gillian Dow

Critics and Canonicity: Anglo-American feminism and the case of Jane Austen

From the 1970s onwards, Anglo-American literary critics from Ellen Moers to Elaine Showalter have carried out the archival work necessary for the writing of British women’s literary history. Thanks to this research, literary critics who focus on British women writers have long had entire conferences devoted to their field, and women writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries play a central part in most undergraduate curricula. It has even been suggested that the recovery project is at an end, and that new directions are needed for the study of British women’s writing. It cannot be argued that British literature is a ‘small’ literature of the kind that this colloquium seeks to investigate. Nonetheless, issues of ‘smallness’ are pertinent to a study of British women’s writing.

This talk will survey what has been lost in the Anglo-American surveys of women’s writing that have provided us with new canons. By using the example of that most canonical of canonical women writers, Jane Austen, I will examine issues of ‘smallness’ applied to women’s writing, and investigate the reception of Austen both within her own country, and beyond.

AsK, October 2012

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