When I began reading A Literature of Their Own, I expected it to be more like Showalter’s A Jury of Her Peers, which is a recounting of the achievements and short biographies of American women writers, many of whom have been ignored by academics, critics, and editors. A Literature of Their Own, however, is Showalter’s dissertation, one of the first feminist literary studies, published originally in 1977 and revised in the 90’s.
As such, it is a bit scholarly and outdated and at times felt mired in its feminist analysis. Showalter divides 19th and 20th century works by women into three categories: female, feminine, and feminist. When she first made this distinction, it seemed artificial and overly finicky, but as she described the fiction, it clearly belonged in three categories, becoming more likely to be feminist in later times.
This book was a bit of a struggle at times. I have two lit degrees, but I don’t necessarily enjoy reading more academic works. Some sections were very interesting while others devolved into a sort of classic early feminist analysis. Still, for those interested in feminism and literature, this is probably a must read. And I’m not implying I am not, just that sometimes the analysis from such a limited viewpoint seems stretched and overdone.