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School of Femininity

After reading a passing reference to it by Jessa Crispin, I checked out the 1936 piece of literary criticism, The School of Femininity, by Margaret Lawrence (who was Canadian, but is not not not the same person as Margaret Laurence).

It’s a rather beat-up edition–stamped as being originally acquired for Duke’s Woman’s College Library on April 17, 1936.

Lawrence was interested in the seeds and development of feminism–she begins with Mary Wollstonecraft. Then Lawnrence came up with some categories of female writing and how they reflect the anxieties or hopes of women. It’s early 20th century, so Freud, neuroses and penis envy are hovering around. In England and Canada, society has changed quite a bit because of a shortage of men after WWI. But even so — there’s something very nice about reading lit crit written before structuralism.  It’s all so. . .understandable!

I didn’t read The School of Femininity cover-to-cover, just the chapters on authors I have read. Because I think it’s interesting and may be a good reference for myself (and maybe you) in the future, here is a list of the authors and key works she chooses for each.

Part I: The Nineteenth-Century School of Femininity

  • Mary Wollstonecraft – The Vindication of the Rights of Women
  • Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice
  • Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre
  • Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights
  • George Eliot – The Mill on the Floss
  • Olive Schreiner – The Story of an African Farm

Part II: The Twentieth-Century School of Femininity
A. Little Girl Pals

  1. Anita Loos – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  2. Dorothy Parker – her columns
  3. Katharine Brush – Red-Headed Woman
  4. Daphne du Maurier – The Progress of Julius

B.  Go-Getters

  1. Edna Ferber – So Big
  2. Fannie Hurst – Lummox
  3. G.B. Stern (AKA the author of The Ugly Dachshund!) – saga of the Czelovar and Rakonitz families
  4. Rose Macaulay – Told By an Idiot

C.  Matriarchs

  1. Dorothy Canfield – The Bent Twig
  2. Margaret Ayer Barnes – Westward Passage
  3. Storm Jameson – The Triumph of Time trilogy
  4. Phyllis Bentley – Inheritance
  5. Phyllis Bottome – Private Worlds
  6. Sheila Kaye-Smith – Susan Spray
  7. Ruth Suckow – The Folks
  8. Evelyn Scott – The Wave
  9. Kate O’Brien – The Anteroom

D.  Helpmeets

  1. Edith Wharton – The Age of Innocence
  2. Helen Grace Carlisle – The Wife
  3. Mary Borden – Flamingo
  4. May Sinclair – Anne Severn and the Fieldings
  5. Margaret Goldsmith – Belated Adventure
  6. I.A.R. Wylie – The Silver Virgin
  7. Kay Boyle – The Year Before Last

E.  Sophisticated Ladies

  1. Ellen Glasgow – They Stooped to Folly
  2. Mazo de la Roche – Jalna
  3. Margaret Kennedy – The Constant Nymph
  4. E.H. Young – Miss Mole
  5. E.M. Delafield – The Diary of a Provincial Lady
  6. “Elizabeth” – Elizabeth and her German Garden
  7. Victoria Sackville-West – All Passion Spent

F.  Priestesses

  1. Pearl Buck – The First Wife
  2. Radclyffe Hall – The Well of Loneliness
  3. Mary Webb – Precious Bane

G. Artistes

  1. Katherine Mansfield – short stories
  2. Willa Cather – Lucy Gayheart
  3. Clemence Dane – Broome Stages
  4. Virginia Woolf – Orlando