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A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  250 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
A Jury of Her Peers is an unprecedented literary landmark: the first comprehensive history of American women writers from 1650 to 2000.

In a narrative of immense scope and fascination—brimming with Elaine Showalter’s characteristic wit and incisive opinions—we are introduced to more than 250 female writers. These include not only famous and expected names (Harriet Beecher S
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Knopf
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May 18, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: americans; women; writers; readers or potential readers of american women writers; thirty-year-olds
Recommended to Jessica by: dan redican, via salon article link
Shelves: chicklits
This is a really great book. Elaine Showalter claims to have written the first comprehensive overview of American women writers, and as I love and trust Dr. Showalter, I have no reason at all not to believe her.

First of all: Elaine Showalter is married. To a man. Yes, yes, I was disappointed too, but if we can't sweep her off her feet and spirit her away to live in our castle, at least we might enjoy her engaging critical history of important lady authors from the Pilgrims' day until now! Dry yo
Ms. Online
Jennifer Cognard-Black

Review of A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx
By Elaine Showalter

Authors breed books. Like mothers, they grow and nurture their creations. Yet the word author is derived from the Latin auctor and actually means a male begetter, or father. As authors Sarah Gilbert and Susan Gubar famously claimed in their 1979 book Madwoman in the Attic, a study of Victorian women writers, a “pen is in some sense…
Apr 25, 2016 Kaion rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, feminism
On the last page of A Jury of Her Peers, Showalter says, "We need literary history, critical judgments, even a literary canon, as a necessary step toward doing the fullest justice to women's writing." In the five hundred plus pages before this, Showalter does nothing more and nothing less, offering something of a whirlwind survey through 250 years of American literary history (one decade at a time), giving each author featured a brief biography before delving into an analysis of her work.

The exh
Jun 23, 2016 Renata rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I was just reminded of this amazing book (and yes, I was amazed over and over again as I read, and have reread it) and its endlessly informative and thought-provoking descriptions of American women writers from our earliest beginnings to pretty much the present. Dr.Showalter is a thoroughly engaging writer as well as a preeminent scholar. She is also a fabulous speaker and it was at a literary conference where I first had the good fortune to hear her speak.

My friends and I looked at each other
Apr 06, 2010 Catherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
One of the more comprehensive books of its kind. I have a more mixed reaction to it than the 4 stars indicates but I think it's an important work and well worth reading. On the plus side, Showalter introduces readers to women writers that I for one have never run across before. There are short biographies and descriptions of their work, which are also useful. The book design is also quite outstanding, and it supports Showalter's style so well that reading this book is a pleasure, despite its siz ...more
Mar 19, 2009 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
This was a very readable discussion of American women's writing from the beginning through the '70s. I really loved most of it, although it helped that I was on an early American women's writing kick just a couple of years ago. Starting around the 1840s, the book generally covers the subject decade by decade, sometimes pegging writers into the most fitting decade and sometimes (more as the book goes on) revisiting them later. There's a good analysis of the writers (up until the middle of the 20t ...more
Mar 18, 2010 Russell rated it really liked it
It is hard to review a book that really is only a literary history of women in American Literature. All I will say is, I learned a lot. I did find some of the sections that were used to create a history too long. And some of the authors that were focused on, are forgotten for a reason. But I did get introducted to a number of terms and time periods of American Lit. I was not aware of.

My biggest issue was with the moder women. I am a huge fan of a lot of them - Toni Morrison being one of my favor
Ann Cefola
Dec 25, 2015 Ann Cefola rated it really liked it
This important work traces the well-known and not so well-known women writers. It illumines those who achieved a certain amount of publishing success in a white male-dominated world, and those who evidenced potential. Many of the latter died, went insane, or, like Margaret Fuller, were ship-wrecked--the constant refrain, i.e., "she would (italics mine) have been a great writer," etc., is chilling and sad.

In a way, the book begs feminist literary scholars to pick up the torch and research more i
Dec 05, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-reads
Four and a half, really. It took me awhile to finish this but it was worth it. The book is broad in scope and very readable. As with any undertaking of this size, there will be quibbles about specific authors, but it all leads to great conversations about books, so that's what's most important. I've started a TBR list from it to begin next year. I would have liked a bibliography included.
May 01, 2010 Stephany rated it really liked it
I did it! I finished the whole tome last night.

This book was published in 2009 and it's the first anthology of American women writers. Just saying.

Having attended an all-girls high school that did a fair job of highlighting the contributions of women in various subjects, and having obtained a Women's Studies certificate in college, I didn't think that so much in this book would be new to me. Oh, it was - and I gained a huge to-read list of women writers that I've been plowing through since.

I'd n
My response to this book is complicated. I think it does important work; no book like this has ever been compiled. However, it makes me wonder what, exactly, we're counting on a "literary history" to do. I may find bits (small bits) of this text useful in pointing me toward previously unfamiliar authors whose work might prove fruitful for my dissertation; beyond that, however, I question its usefulness and, more importantly, the effect it has on the body of American women writers that it treats. ...more
Mar 22, 2009 Mandy rated it really liked it
Fascinating interview with the Economist on their podcast on this, and remarkable that this is the first literary history of women writers.

After reading: Engaging history of American women's writing, came away with a new perspective on the challenges posed by the endeavor over time and a list of authors that I need to read. Reviewers have criticized Showalter for a. being overly harsh re: Gertrude Stein and b. not expressing as much enthusiasm for the later writers. I can't speak to a, but I thi
Kay Robart
Jul 30, 2013 Kay Robart rated it really liked it
Elaine Showalter has compiled an astonishingly complete literary history of the work of American women, beginning in the early 17th Century and covering through the 20th. She has written this book, she explains, because literature by American women has been consistently ignored or omitted from criticism, anthologies, and scholarly works. She points out that even novels and poetry that were very popular and widely read in their own times sank like a stone into oblivion afterwards because the work ...more
Apr 07, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it
This one gets easier to read as you get closer to the present - I think it's because the authors are actually recognizable (Morrison, Plath, Jackson, Rich, etc) as opposed to so many of the pre-twentieth century authors (Fanny Fern?). I do appreciate the research and work Showalter went to in finding overarching themes in women's writing at different time periods. The road to acceptance has not been smooth.

I still think longer/any excerpts of the authors' work should have been included. Copyrigh
Apr 10, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it
I'm about half way through this book and I'm finding it slow going. Showalter discusses so many women that she doesn't talk about any in depth. Still, there is a lot to interest me and I'm determined to get into the 20th century.

I have finished Showalter's A Jury of Her Peers, and found it ambitious and readable. It is heavily footnoted, but I just trusted in the footnotes and didn't read most of them. She discusses the roadblocks in the success of women's writing, which included poverty, ambiva
This volume is an odd mix. Showalter gives detailed plot summaries and analyses of some authors' work while others are only represented by biographical details and the titles of their publications. I guess in this way Showalter replicates questions about the role of gender in art (i.e. how much does an artist's personal life matter in comparison to what she produces? should one look at a poem or novel aesthetically and/or contextually?) The form of the book directly relates to its subject and mi ...more
Melissa Railey
Dec 09, 2009 Melissa Railey rated it really liked it
A Jury of Her Peers is a comprehensive look at the history of American women writers from the founding of America to the modern times. It examines women writers and gives a thorough study of each writer but Elaine Showalter never overdoes it. She seems to know that line between not enough information and too much information. The book is basically a textbook but it makes very good reading. I love reading about the history of women and the marks that women have made on history. The stories of ama ...more
Jenna Free
Dec 15, 2014 Jenna Free rated it it was amazing
Read this entire textbook in my Fall 2014 Women Writers class at ODU. It taught me a TON about the history of women writing in America.
Vivian Valvano
Jun 09, 2010 Vivian Valvano rated it liked it
I've come to the conclusion that some books try to render a history of a subject but only render a survey. There is great breadth, but not enough depth here. Showalter is such a noted critic that I expected more. She is obviously very knowledgeable and well read, but in an effort to write something about just about every woman who wrote, from Bradstreet to Proulx, she really does a "gallop" through the ages. And her handling of 20th-century authors by decade instead of by authors' oeuvres is esp ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Jayme rated it really liked it
I found it hard to believe that a comprehensive criticism of American women's writing didn't exist until now. All of the courses I took in school gave me small sketches into the role of women in the literary narrative of our country, but this very readable book gave me a more complete picture. Obviously, there are many important writers left out. I could name many in this review. But overall, Showalter created a very interesting portrait. I really appreciated her approach-short biographies and c ...more
Lise Petrauskas
Maybe a reading project for when I'm done with Schmidt's The Novel...
Mar 14, 2010 Martha rated it really liked it
Showalter does a great job of placing each writer in her point in history, while also talking about the individual style, strengths, and weaknesses of her writing. She writes about the major themes of each era while making sure to include women who stood outside of those themes. By the end, you not only have a great sense of how women's writing has changed over time, but also a clear picture of how women's writing and the culture and politics of the day impacted each other.

Best of all, you learn
Sarah Holz
Feb 26, 2012 Sarah Holz rated it it was amazing
Fabulous pull-together of women writing in the United States. Showalter is admirably evenhanded throughout, never shying away from literary criticism for the sake of the Sisterhood of Lady Writers (though in one small lapse it's pretty clear she's no Gertrude Stein fan...not being one especially myself it didn't particularly bother me). It's hard to imagine that anyone would be familiar with every name in the book either, so I found it a gold mine of new selections for my to-read list as well.
Erin (work)
Mar 25, 2009 Erin (work) rated it really liked it
Don't be intimidated by it's size: it's very readable and Showalter is engagingly opinionated. I am completely inspired to return to novel-reading--and it was a fantastic reminder of all the books I actually have read (versus thinking about all the books I haven't . . . . ). Not enough discussion of women poets--and not a book of literary criticism--and it is making a canon--but I recommend it.

**Important: she is really really wrong about Gertrude Stein.
Oct 02, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
Just picked this up over the weekend and am currently dipping into it. I read some Showalter during my Am studies degree and greatly enjoyed her work, a well-informed and articulate scholar whose premise of putting American women's writing centre stage does not prevent her from offering cogent critiques of some of the work. It loses one star for lack of pictures, though, they would have been very useful to put faces to names.
Sep 27, 2010 Heather rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for any student of American literature. It highlights the diversity and breadth of American womens' writing, and reintroduces a lot of lost voices. More than anything, A Jury of her Peers makes me want to read, to track down all those women I've missed, and to revist those that I already love. A really great survey of literary traditions that have too often been ignored or trivialized.
Jul 16, 2010 Pamster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, wow. Not that I don't have issues (where's Octavia Butler?), but this book is still amazing. It's something that hasn't been done before, and now it exists, and we can all point out our issues with it and have these super important conversations about canon. Awesome, important work. I read Maud Martha (AWESOME) after hearing Showalter do a reading and discussion to promote this book, so she's already improved my life.
Jan 17, 2010 Carolyn rated it liked it
I wish this had been out when I was tasked with teaching women's lit! It's a great run-down of notable women writers --perfect for syllabus-building. But it is a little strange to be reading a book that really just describes other books --a terrific way to discover authors, but I found myself wishing that Showalter had done more analysis or offered more insights, even though I know that wasn't her project.
Dec 28, 2014 Ellen rated it it was ok
Although this book is quite informative, the author's style is a bit like a schoolmarm's. I learned a lot about many women writers of whom I'd not heard before, but enjoyed reading the chapters from the Victorian period forward more than those about the earlier eras of American history.

It's a good book to read if you'd like to educate yourself about the writing of American authors.
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Elaine Showalter is an American literary critic, feminist, and writer on cultural and social issues. She is one of the founders of feminist literary criticism in United States academia, developing the concept and practice of gynocritics.

She is well known and respected in both academic and popular cultural fields. She has written and edited numerous books and articles focussed on a variety of subje
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