Sure to take its place alongside the literary landmarks of modern feminism, Elaine Showalter's brilliant, provocative work chronicles the roles of feminist intellectuals from the eighteenth century to the present. With sources as diverse as A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Scream 2, Inventing Herself is an expansive and timely exploration of women who possess a boundless determination to alter the world by boldly experiencing love, achievement, and fame on a grand scale. These women tried to work, travel, think, love, and even die in ways that were ahead of their time. In doing so, they forged an epic history that each generation of adventurous women has rediscovered. Focusing on paradigmatic figures ranging from Mary Wollstonecraft and Margaret Fuller to Germaine Greer and Susan Sontag, preeminent scholar Elaine Showalter uncovers common themes and patterns of these women's lives across the centuries and discovers the feminist intellectual tradition they embodied. The author brilliantly illuminates the contributions of Eleanor Marx, Zora Neale Hurston, Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Mead, and many more. Showalter, a highly regarded critic known for her provocative and strongly held opinions, has here established a compelling new Who's Who of women's thought. Certain to spark controversy, the omission of such feminist perennials as Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Virginia Woolf will surprise and shock the conventional wisdom. This is not a history of perfect women, but rather of real women, whose mistakes and even tragedies are instructive and inspiring for women today who are still trying to invent themselves.
Elaine Showalter, Emeritus Professor of English at Princeton University, combines scholarly expertise in English and American literature with a passion for a wide range of cultural subjects. She has written ten books, most recently The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography and A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, which was awarded the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism. Her writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, People, and Vogue.
Arlie Hochschild author of The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work In this engrossing book, Elaine Showalter gives us feminist icons as real human beings. She treats each woman's frailty with such dignity and respect that we have more than a series of icons. We have history itself.
Gioia Diliberto author of A Useful Woman As brisk and entertaining as it is learned and idea-provoking, Inventing Herself illuminates the evolution of feminist thought and reminds us that the yearning for love and the yearning for work were as powerful three centuries ago as they are today.
Wayne Koestenbaum author of The Queen's Throat and Jackie Under My Skin Elaine Showalter's phrases turn heads, inspire revolution: she is a brilliant critic, and this remarkable new book significantly extends the range of her sympathies and enthusiasms. Every reader will want to emulate the feminist mavericks whose lives she expertly sketches, for Inventing Herself gives a taste of these women's accomplishments but also of their amusements and transports. Showalter demonstrates a Wildean refusal to overplay earnestness; she pays keen attention to human foible, to sexual ambiguity, and to the often compromised relation between work and love. Her analyses are never predictable, always astringent. I frequently laugh aloud at the sly precision of her observations.
Marianna Torgovnick professor, Duke University, and author of Crossing Ocean Parkway and Primitive Passions From Mary Wollstonecraft to Mary McCarthy, Zora Neale Hurston to Susan Sontag, intellectual women have followed their own rules. Sometimes, they risk everything -- and lose it. But they always earn (in Ruth Benedict's words) a "life that achieved an idea." I found Elaine Showalter's Inventing Herself hard to stop reading. As a collective memoir, it offers women a lineage and comforting words -- without sentimentality, and in terrific, exciting prose.
Paul West author of O.K. and The Tent of Orange Mist Do men write such books about one another? C. P. Snow's Variety of Men is one of the few. Elaine Showalter knows her women, seems to like most of them, and addresses herself to her theme with adroit amenity. This book is neither feminist sociology nor catty whim, but rather a luscious fresco of desirables keenly inventing themselves. Readers anxiously looking for such as Vera Brittain, Rosamund Lehmann, Ann Douglas, Winifred Holtby, and Freda Kirchwey will find them here, along with many others.
Joyce Carol Oates author of Blonde and Them From her startling opening remarks to the poignancy of her conclusion, Elaine Showalter has written a fascinating and illuminating book on the provocative subject of women intellectuals and "role models." Showalter knows her material intimately, and her writing style is irresistibly readable. The account of the comical pursuit of Susan Sontag by Camille Paglia is worth the price of the book alone.