Writing Women’s Literary History

By championing the recovery of “lost” women writers and insisting on reevaluating the past, women’s studies and feminist theory have effected dramatic changes in the ways English literary history is written and taught. In Writing Women’s Literary History, Margaret Ezell critically examines these successful women’s literary histories and applies to them the same self-conscious feminism that critics have applied to more traditional methods. According to Ezell, by relying not only on past male scholarship but also on inherited notions of “tradition,” some feminist historicists replicate the evolutionary, narrative model of history that originally marginalized women who wrote before 1700. Drawing both on French feminisms and on recent historicist scholarship, Ezell points us to new possibilities for the recovery of early modern women’s literary history.