Posts Tagged ‘women and the literary canon’

Loyal reader Kaylee Baucom, professor of English at the College of Southern Nevada, sent Blogging Woolf a sighting from Jezebel that irreverently proclaims “The Literary Canon Is Still One Big Sausage Fest.”

Writer Doug Barry imagines himself at a cocktail party full of the kind of people who generally don’t make a very fun party — “stony-faced older white dudes” who are “milling around, some of them openly glaring at each other.” The lone woman writer at the event is Emily Dickinson, who flees to the bathroom when approached.

Barry goes on to lambast the way women are slighted when lists of notable writers are compiled by popular magazines. They include:

  • Commentary Magazine‘s list of the top 25 American writers included only five women, and none of them were in the top five.
  • The 2009 list of the ‘100 Greatest Writers of All Time’ on This Recording included just 14 women. The Woolf sighting was the fact that Virginia Woolf was #14 on the list.

Barry also complains that even though women are the main audience for novels, the best press reviews of new books are overwhelmingly written about new books by men, and the rosters of publishing houses of all sizes generally include far more male than female authors.

As Barry puts it:

Just by the numbers, women are minority shareholders in an enterprise whose success they fuel.

Meg Wolitzer takes up the same theme in “The Second Shelf: On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women” in the March 30 Sunday Book Review of the New York Times.

She expands the argument by discussing how books are marketed differently if they are written by women. From the way the books are categorized on Amazon to their covers designs, the code is easy to read as “Stay away, men,” she writes.

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