The Classic’s Club have announced a new event, The Women’s Classic’s Literature Event, aimed at encouraging people to read more classic literature by women. I’m really excited about this as I love classic books by female writers. My own classic challenge is primarily based on reading women writers so this fits in just nicely with my own reading goals. The event will run from now until December 2016.
“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques–literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.” – Virginia Woolf
To kick things off the The Classics Club have asked a few questions of those participating, so here it goes.
1.Introduce yourself. Tell us what you are most looking forward to in this event.
Hi, I’m Emma a.k.a Dublin Bookworm. I’m loving the idea of loads of people setting out to read some of the wonderful classics by female writers, many of whom get overlooked in favour of the men. And it ties in nicely with my own current classic challenge.
2.Have you read many classics by women? Why or why not?
I’ve read a fair few. To date they’ve mostly been the well known ones such as Austen, the main books by the Bronte’s, and some of Gaskell and Eliot. I’ve loved Austen since I was a kid and that kind of set the rest in motion.
3.Pick a classic female writer you can’t wait to read for the event, & list her date of birth, her place of birth, and the title of one of her most famous works.
George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans on the 22nd Novemeber 1819. She is of the few female writers I know of who is still published under her male pseudonym. She had a rather interesting life, including living unmarried with the critic George Henry Lewes (not the done thing in Victorian England). Her best known work is Middlemarch, which I’m hoping to read over Christmas (its over 800 pages so perfect of lounging around with after Christmas).
4. Think of a female character who was represented in classic literature by a male writer. Does she seem to be a whole or complete woman? Why or why not? Tell us about her. (Without spoilers, please!)
Struggling with this one. There are no female characters by male writers who I like. They are either insipid angelic creatures or have terrible things happen to them (I’m looking at you Dickens and Hardy). Bleak House is probably the best classic by a male writer I’ve read recently. The main female character Esther is very much in the Dickens angelic mould though, which I find both irritating and unbelievable.
5. Favorite classic heroine? (Why? Who wrote her?)
Jane Austen is my all time favourite author, so of course my favourite classic heroine is one of hers. My favourite heroine is probably Emma Woodhouse. Yes she is spoilt, but she is also funny and most importantly clearly a flawed creature. She is human and the mistakes she makes are then kind many a girl has made. We’ve all played matchmaker at least once in our lives.
6. We’d love to help clubbers find great titles by classic female authors. Can you recommend any sources for building a list? (Just skip this question if you don’t have any at this point.)
Easy place to start is the classic section of your bookshop. Find the Penguin Classics. They are cheap (€3 or so per book) and publish a good range of female writers. You’ll certainly find all the big names, and if you haven’t read many female writers you may as well start with the big names before moving on to the obscure ones.
7. Recommend three books by classic female writers to get people started in this event. (Again, skip over this if you prefer not to answer.)
Again I think if you haven’t read many female writers, the obvious place is to start with the big names. My recommendations are probably obvious choices, but they represent the main styles and themes used by female authors helping you determine what sort of classics you enjoy.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
8. Will you be joining us for this event immediately, or will you wait until the new year starts?
I shall be starting immediately since I have a few books on my classic list by female writers to finish this year.
9. Do you plan to read as inspiration pulls, or will you make out a preset list?
I’m not good at lists so it’ll mostly be whatever I feel like at the time. I’ll be aiming to read one a month though.
10. Are you pulling to any particular genres? (Letters, journals, biographies, short stories, novels, poems, essays, etc?)
It’ll mostly be novels though I may read a few biographies of authors I enjoy. I’ve already read one on Jane Austen which I really enjoyed. I know Gaskell wrote a biography of Charlotte Bronte. I think I may have to read that and “kill two birds with one stone”.
11. Are you pulling to a particular era or location in literature by women?
Traditionally its mainly the 19th English writers I stick to. However I feel I should probably try expand that a bit to include some 20th Century writers like Virgina Woolf. I’m open to suggestions on this front.
12. Do you hope to host an event or readalong for the group? No worries if you don’t have details. We’re just curious!
No idea. Lets see how things go. I’d be happy to host one or co-host one.
13. Is there an author or title you’d love to read with a group or a buddy for this event? Sharing may inspire someone to offer.
I think North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell would make a great buddy read. Less people have read Gaskell and North and South is very accessible.
14. Share a quote you love by a classic female author — even if you haven’t read the book yet.
“Loyalty and obedience to wisdom and justice are fine; but it is still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly used–not on behalf of ourselves, but on behalf of others more helpless.” – North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
15. Finally, ask the question you wish this survey had asked, & then answer it.
I’ll get back to you on this one. It’s a fairly comprehensive survey.