Women's Literary History Month

Wednesday March 27, 2013

By Guide Biography: Patrick Kennedy

In the U.S., March is Women's History Month. It's a much-deserved celebration of women's rights activists, female politicians and business leaders, and other strong women who (alas) can't really get profiled on a Classic Literature in Translation site. Ah, but what about outstanding women writers? There are plenty of those, and you can find profiles of everyone from George Sand to Simone de Beauvoir to Isabel Allende on my site right now. And of course, let me know if there's anyone you'd like me to discuss.

Okay. But why (you may ask) have I said so little about female authors at other points? Am I some sort of crotchety anti-feminist? Not at all. The truth is that female authors have, in spite of numerous social and political obstacles, played a massively important part in international literature. Yet to explain the part they've played, I've had to do some homework. Many of the branches of literature I know best are branches where (alas again) major female authors can be hard to track down. Were there any female authors who had Tolstoy's or Dostoevsky's reputation in 19th-century Russia? Any female authors in 20th-century Japan who've won the same name recognition as Akutagawa or Kawabata?

Well, look a little farther in each of these fields and you'll find women authors who rival, or exceed, the men I've just named. Japanese literature, and the art of the novel generally, owes debts to female novelist Murasaki Shikibu that I can barely begin to describe. And once you hit the 20th century, Russian women authors such as Anna Akhmatova start to play a major role. They also wrote some of the era's best poetry.

Do you have a female author you would like to see profiled? Let me know, and make sure the author of your choice wasn't writing in English. Trust me; if I could have, I would have profiled Jane Austen, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, and Toni Morrison in my first month or two.


©2024 eLuminary LLC. All rights reserved.