Cover image for The Cambridge guide to women's writing in English
The Cambridge guide to women's writing in English
Sage, Lorna.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
viii, 696 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR111 .C353 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



This Guide aims to consolidate and epitomise the re-reading of women's writing that has gone on in the last twenty-five years. This is an opportunity for stock-taking - a timely project, when so much writing has been rediscovered, reclaimed and republished. There are entries on writers, on individual texts, and on general terms, genres and movements, all printed in a single alphabetical sequence. The earliest written documents in medieval English (the visionary writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe) are covered in an historical - and geographical - sweep that takes us up to the present day. The book reflects the spread of literacy, the history of colonisation and the development of post-colonial cultures using and changing the English language. The entries are written by contributors from all the countries covered. The result is a work of reference with a unique feeling for the vitality, wealth and diversity of women's writing.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

There are guides to British women writers (An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers [RBB Je 1 & 15 99], The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers [RBB D 15 93]) and American women writers (The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States [RBB Ja 15 95]), but this book treats women authors who share a common language, not just geographical borders. More than 2,500 alphabetically arranged entries sketch the lives and works of individual authors, characterize particular works (novels, collections of plays, poetry, and essays), and define literary terms and types. Coverage ranges widely over time (from the Middle Ages to the present) and place (not only the U.S., United Kingdom, and Canada but India, Jamaica, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe as well). Some of the writers, such as Colette and Christine de Pizan, did not write in English; but their works had "incalculable influence" and have been translated. Many literary genres are represented, from romance and mystery fiction to plays, poetry, essays, cookery books, scandalous memoirs, children's books, and travel writing. The signed entries are concise and range in length from one paragraph to a page. Numerous cross-references link authors and their works, authors of comparable style or period, and related topics, making this handbook more like an encyclopedia than a dictionary. More than 300 scholars contributed; noted feminist Germaine Greer and Elaine Schowalter, author of several books on women writers, acted as advisory editors. In this compact but rich resource one will find not only Lydia Maria Child but Julia Child, Caryl Churchill as well as Sarah Churchill, and Penelope Fitzgerald as well as Zelda Fitzgerald. Illustrating the text are a number of portraits of authors, reproductions of frontispieces of books, and facsimiles of signatures and letters. A worthy addition to most reference collections, the volume will be useful for literature and women's studies collections in public and academic libraries. Though its style is fairly scholarly, it might also be of interest to high schools that have adopted curricula emphasizing multicultural literature and work by women writers. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English [RBB Ja 1 91] also crosses borders, but it does not have entries for individual works and does not include writers who have come to prominence since the mid-1980s.

Library Journal Review

This impressive volume, edited by journalist Sage, is one of the first biographical dictionaries to offer a comprehensive guide to women writers in the English language. The coverage is thorough, crossing historical, national, and generic boundaries as it ranges from Julian of Norwich to Terry Macmillan, from M.K.F. Fisher to Pauline Kael, from Ghanaian playwright Ama Ata Aidoo to Native American writer Mourning Dove. There are also articles on selected titles and themes. The entries, which range from 160 to 500 words, are informative, critical, and jargon-free. While the inclusion of some non-English speaking writers (such as H‚lŠne Cixous) and the absence of unorthodox feminists (like Camille Paglia) point to a critical bias, this is a wonderful resource and a pleasure to read.ÄThomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Designed to "epitomize the re-reading of women's writing that has gone on in the last twenty-five years" (publisher's blurb), this work tackles the job piecemeal. Brief entries, arranged alphabetically, cover authors, works, genres, subgenres, and general terms and provide reliable brief summaries of women's writing in English. The work, however, does not provide a cohesive picture of how perceptions of the literature have changed since 1975 and lacks a strong introduction that could have provided valuable context. On the positive side, the signed entries are well written and insightful; a key to contributors is included. Recommended for libraries with strong literature collections or a focus on women's writing. P. Palmer; University of Memphis