Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, Zora Neale Hurston, George Eliot, Rose Wilder Lane, Louisa May Alcott, & Virginia Woolf.
Have you ever read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf?
There’s this scene in the essay where Woolf’s narrative persona is in the British Museum and can’t find a proper history on women. She can find a whole bunch of books by men about what women think, what they should think, what they shouldn’t think, who they are: but she can’t get at the actual woman. In fiction by men, she finds that women are either portrayed as angels or promiscuous monsters. Always they are portrayed in relation to men. In history, she finds that they are invisible, and that she cannot rely on the portrayal of women she finds in the British Museum:
“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques–literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.” – Virginia Woolf
We’re going to have an event. It officially starts today because it is no fun to wait until January. But you can wait until January if you want to. 🙂
The event? Read classic literature by female authors, & share your thoughts (or links to your thoughts) at #ccwomenclassics on Twitter, or in our quarterly check-ins, which we’ll have here in January, April, July, October, & December of 2016.
This event is way more a celebration than a “reading challenge.” It’s about hunting out those forgotten titles which didn’t make it into the official canon, & reading them & sharing the excitement. Or exploring the females who are in the canon. For example, if you want to spend the entire year poring over Middlemarch by George Eliot, going a chapter or two a month and gently journaling, we don’t want to stifle that by asking you to meet a title count.
You can make a preset list, if you want one. (We think preset lists are mighty fine!) You can give yourself a goal. Or you can do this thing organically: read as you’re inspired, and share as you’re inspired, & give us a wave now & then.
You can choose any genre you like: Gothics, sensation fiction, sentimental novels, children’s classics, letters, journals, essays, short stories, female writers from the American South, Irish classics by women, African classics by women, Australian classics by women, poetry, plays. You can do all Persephone titles, all Virago, all forgotten nineteenth century letter-writers, all journals, all novels, all essays, all feminist works — or a mix. You could do a deep exploration of a single author’s work, or pick a couple authors whose works you’d like to compare and contrast. You could set up your own dueling authors: read three by one author, and three by the other, and see who comes out on top. Really, you can get as creative as you want with this event. If the title was penned by a female and written or published before 1960, it counts. (We don’t actually care if you want to fudge that date.)
Biographies on classic females count, too. (Even if they were written recently.) If you go that route, it would be lovely if you shared your author findings in a post so others can learn! If you want to list a series of poems by women & call that your list, it counts. Often women wrote short stories for magazines when they couldn’t find a publisher for their novel. That counts! Tour the centuries and continents or locate yourself in England in the nineteenth century. Your list is the product of your own exploration and imagination. If you want to reread the whole Little House collection for the entire year — THAT COUNTS. 🙂 The point is to get people thinking about women writers & sharing favorite reads.
We encourage clubbers to host readalongs or join together in buddy reads, if you’d like. If you’re hosting a readalong, feel free to tweet it to #ccwomenclassics and @ourclassicsclub if you’re on Twitter so others have the opportunity to join, & remember you can toss a link here. Feel free to use the comments box or our twitter hashtag to work out group reads or buddy reads together, if it comes up.
- Check-Ins: We’ll check in January 2016, April 2016, July 2016, October 2016, & December 2016, just to have a little fun & see how everyone’s doing. These check-ins will be very casual: just a place to say hello, compare notes, & maybe mention some of our favorite reads so far. It would be fun to discover some new titles through the check-ins!
- Event Dates: Now through December 31, 2016.
- Sign Up: This is the sign-up post, & the comment box below is where you join. If you make a preset list, feel free to drop your link in the comment box at any time. If you want to share your titles as you read, you can do that in the comments for the current post for the event, or at Twitter: #ccwomenclassics.
What do you think? Can you suggest some titles or authors people might want to explore? Can you suggest some sources for discovering female authors?
Are you interested in taking part? Are you going to set a goal? Have you got a current favorite female classic writer? Who are you itching to meet through her books?