- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1 edition (September 1, 1983)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780292724457
- ISBN-13: 978-0292724457
- ASIN: 0292724454
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How to Suppress Women's Writing 1st Edition
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"She didn't write it. She wrote it but she shouldn't have. She wrote it but look what she wrote about. She wrote it but she isn't really an artist, and it isn't really art. She wrote it but she had help. She wrote it but she's an anomaly. She wrote it BUT..." How to Suppress Women's Writing is a meticulously researched and humorously written "guidebook" to the many ways women and other "minorities" have been barred from producing written art. In chapters entitled "Prohibitions," "Bad Faith," "Denial of Agency," Pollution of Agency," "The Double Standard of Content," "False Categorization," "Isolation," "Anomalousness," "Lack of Models," Responses," and "Aesthetics" Joanna Russ names, defines, and illustrates those barriers to art-making we may have felt but which tend to remain unnamed and thus insolvable. With the apparent proliferation of women writers in the last decade, is this book still relevant? Ask yourself how many women you know who are trying to make art? And how many find the time, resources, and support to succeed? So long as poverty, lack of leisure, and sexism - those "powerful, informal prohibitions against committing art" - exist, How to Suppress Women's Writing remains timely. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen
"A quirky, irreverent, iconoclastic, idiosyncratic piece of work. It catalogues all the various attitudinal problems and misconceptions ...that allow us to disregard or even discard the artistic productions of women. By defining these patterns so clearly and succinctly, Russ holds a mirror before usa mirror in which we can see ourselves anew." (Annette Kolodny)
"A book of the most profound and original clarity. Like all clear-sighted people who look and see what has been much mystified and much lied about, Russ is quite excitingly subversive. The study of literature should never be the same again . . ." (Marge Piercy)
"Extraordinary and original ...feminist literary criticism rarely explores the social context in which literature is selected for posterity. This, Russ does persuasively, movingly, and in the finest of critical traditions." (Phyllis Chesler)
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HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING investigates historical and social reasons that may have kept whole generations of women from writing in the first place (things like differential rates of literacy, disparate access to education, women’s historical lack of leisure time and position as wife as a second work shift). She also interrogates how it is that when women somehow do manage to write that women’s writing is ignored, slandered or undercut. The book was published by the University of Texas Press, which puts it squarely in the realm of academic works, but the writing is colloquial and accessible throughout. You do not need to be steeped in literary criticism or feminist theory to read and understand Russ’ arguments here, which is a great strength.
She argues that what is considered “good” or “worthy” literature (and by extension, that which is taught and thus survives across generations) is designated as such by privileged groups who have a vested interest in keeping themselves privileged. The ways in which they limit entrance or access to literature are by mental acrobatics such as assuming women writers didn’t really write their works, or that it doesn’t matter if they wrote it because it’s the wrong kind of work, or that maybe they wrote it and maybe it’s good but it’s the only good thing she ever wrote. Some of this is deliberate, but just as much is unconscious bias. Each chapter is broken into one tactic that has been used to suppress women’s writing, and Russ packs her chapters full of anecdotes, survey results, and historical examples to support her claims. And, somehow, she does it with a wry and witty voice that makes the writing lively.
Still, the book is not a perfect one. It’s centered very squarely on white middle class women’s experiences. Russ occasionally throws in an anecdote about her friend and colleague, Samuel Delany, a Black scifi writer, but he himself is tokenized in the doing. Clearly throughout the text she attempts to draw parallels between gendered exclusions in literary circles and race-based exclusions, but Delany pops up over and over again as if he is the only Black writer she knows (and as if Black writers are the only voices who can counterpart the voices of white writers). White lesbian authors pop up far more frequently than writers of color, and women writers of color are virtually never mentioned in the main body of the text. This lack of intersectional focus irked me while I read it—it’s such a good book, and also such a clear example of the failings of second wave feminism. Russ uses the Afterword to acknowledge her failing here, directly addressing her unfamiliarity with and inability to capture the struggles of women writers of color. She talks about stumbling across a beautiful, rich treasure trove of writing by women of color—a parallel canon, as it were—which unintentional struck me as fetishizing and exoticizing of women of color’s experiences.
An important and eye opening work that should be read by all students and teachers of the Fine and Liberal Arts, but won't be, because, well, a woman wrote it. She wrote it, but...