Elaine Showalter Biography
(1941– ), A Literature of Their Own
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Seven Against Thebes (Hepta epi Thēbas; Septem contra Thebas) to Sir Walter Scott and Scotland
American cultural and feminist critic, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, educated at Bryn Mawr College and the University of California. She became Professor of English at Princeton University. Showalter is best known for A Literature of Their Own (1977; revised edition 1982), an examination of women novelists from Charlotte Brontë to Doris Lessing in which many critically neglected writers of the period are recovered. Showalter's other major critical works, The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830–1980 (1987) and Sexual Anarchy (1990), continue her interdisciplinary investigations of female experience in the modern period. In both these books, she extends her concerns beyond women writers and looks at the contradictions and tensions that shape women's social, psychological, and sexual development. Showalter's area of scrutiny in Sister's Choice (1991) is the cultural specificity of American women's writings and crafts. She has also edited several valuable collections of essays, including The New Feminist Criticism (1985) and Speaking of Gender (1989), as well as offering a rereading of Louisa M. Alcott in Alternative Alcott (1985). In 1993 she published Daughters of Decadence: Women Writers of the Fin de Siède, a collection of stories from the period. See also feminist criticism.