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Barnes & Noble Review’s Permission Granted: Women and the Essay in 2014

Looking for an intellectual read over your morning coffee? This article by Michelle Dean of the Barnes & Noble Review looks at women of the past century as they quit asking for permission to write and start doing. Click the link below for the full article!



This has been a great year for essayists, and more specifically for women essayists. What people mean by this, principally, is that this year books of essays written by women proved commercially successful. Lena Dunham, Leslie Jamison, and Roxane Gay (the last of whom, full disclosure, is a friend of mine) all hit the bestseller lists with them. By measure of money the achievement was clear. By the measure of culture, always the more troublesome yardstick, less so. 

Exhibit A of the confusion: When the New York Times Book Review at last tuned into the craze a couple of months ago, its columnists, Cheryl Strayed (the author of Wild) and Benjamin Moser (the biographer of Clarice Lispector and, soon, Susan Sontag), were skeptical. They were concerned about the ancient perils of classifying work written by women as “women’s work.” Strayed said the Internet’s love of the personal essay was simply bleeding into culture. Moser said it could be that the essay’s bourgeois origins were simply opening to a wider audience.

These are answers of a kind, but you can make the cultural algebra come out much simpler: we’re getting used to accepting not just that women have authority to speak of themselves on the page, but that their authority might have a general application beyond their personal experience.”

Full Article: 


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