More women, more literary things

Have you been reading the assortment of heartfelt, thought-provoking, and often, deeply personal essays by women in the literary world on the Women Doing Literary Things blog? Here’s a small sample.

Dr Victoria Best (aka blogger Litlove) is a Fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge. She was a lecturer in French at Cambridge for 10 years, and now focuses on study support for the students and on writing. She has published three books of literary criticism. Her essay is titled Reading Between the Lines: Women’s Stories, Women’s Lives.

“When I was an undergraduate, on the cusp of the nineties, there weren’t that many women in Cambridge and feminism was still big news. There were three men for every woman in my matriculation year, and when I joined my college as a lecturer, I was the ninth woman out of a fellowship of 120 or so. I could feel the change in the tide, the way that women were starting to make inroads into the old institutions, without having altered their fundamental constitution. By my era, feminism was more than a collection of fierce women fuelled by injustice, more than a force for change harnessed to an often flawed but determined game plan. It may have become a piece of political and social history, but it had aims that were still palpable and vital.” Read the rest of her post here.

Sayantani DasGupta is a writer, physician, mother and academic. Originally trained in pediatrics and public health, she now teaches  in the Master’s Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University as well as the Graduate Program in Health Advocacy at Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently working on a MG and a YA novel. Her essay is titled Writing Our Bodies: Embodiment, Voice, and Literature.

“What is the connection between voice and the body?
As a daughter of Indian immigrants to the U.S., it was novels, essays, plays and poems – the ‘literary things’ of this blog’s title – which introduced me to myself. I remember reading Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones for the first time and thinking, “This is what it is to be a young brown girl in America. This is what it is to be me.” Marshall’s words were not my exact experience, to be sure, but they gave me a space, a recognition, a permission to be.”
Read the rest of the post here.

Lilian Nattel is the author of two internationally acclaimed novels The River Midnight (Knopf Canada, 1999) and The Singing Fire (Knopf Canada, 2004). Her essay is titled Speaking of Soup and Typewriters.

“I live in a world of women and gentle men. My husband is one of those, a good guy who won my heart by cooking a nourishing and tasty soup. It was early in our relationship, and he noticed on my fridge a list of foods I was avoiding and foods that were good for me (I was having some stomach trouble at the time). Without saying anything about it, he made the soup with all the good ingredients and none of the bad ones, and brought it to me. All my best fictional men have his shyness, gentleness and consideration. While this is the world that I choose for myself, there are other worlds that intersect and impact mine and they are a part of my universe in life and in literature.” Read the rest of her post here.

Brenda Leifso is a Canadian poet whose work has been published in magazines and anthologies throughout Canada.  She also writes and edits through her communications and creative business and teaches communications at Algonquin College in Ottawa, ON. Her essay is titled In Praise of “Domestic Writing”.

“I have a confession to make: I have begun writing about the much maligned or ignored “domestic sphere”– even worse, about motherhood. Worse still, I am going on a campus radio show tonight to talk about my new manuscript. I’m nervous because I anticipate the audience may tune out once my subject matter is introduced; domestic writing and motherhood are not the sexiest topics and have the rep (or even rap) of being solipsistic. Muriel Gray, who judged the 2007 Orange Prize, for instance, wrote in the Guardian that women needed to stop writing “thinly veiled autobiographies on motherhood and boyfriend troubles” – that we needed to use our imaginations more if we wanted to achieve literary heights. Such a view is discouragingly narrow, and the work of many women writers (Carol Shields, Alice Munro) outright refutes it. Writing about mothers and domesticity matters.” Read the rest of her post here.

If you are a woman professionally involved in the literary world and would like to participate in the series, please email me at Niranjana (dot) Iyer (at) gmail (dot) com

5 thoughts on “More women, more literary things

  1. Most interesting. Thanks for the link. I’ll be following it.

    Just a thought. It’s entirely possible that writing evolves us, rather than the other way round, but which way is the question, always.

  2. How apt is it that I’m reading this post in snatches (juggling a babe in the bathtub, dinner simmering downstairs, washing in the dryer… and yet I think.) Loved this post Niranajana! Goes to show that life doesn’t end after motherhood or (gasp!) domesticity. I just wish we’d celebrate our selves more!

  3. Yes, GB, very apt! I blog and write in snatches between parenting and hacking away at the laundry mountain. These essays resonate so personally for me–and for most women reading them.

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