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Editing women.


"Today particularly, when much attention is being paid to revising the established canon of English literature and when women's studies programs are searching for the `genuine' voice of women, the focus on writing by women is timely." This statement from Editing Women's introduction confirms the need for a detailed look into the accounts of literary herstory--in this case presented in the form of six essays by writers of different disciplines. Gender roles, power struggles involved in the editing of women's texts, class and cultural contexts plus the plain fact of editorial revision are all items of consideration in this compilation of papers presented at the 31st annual Conference on Editorial Problems, University of Toronto (1995).

The endeavour of recovering women's words by re-evaluating their texts can reinforce progress made in several feminist categories. In re-acquainting ourselves with certain volumes, we are seeking their deeper meanings in feminist, historical and literary terms. For example, Naomi Black's essay, `"Not a novel, They Said": Editing Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas' reconfirms the book's status as a feminist classic while detailing its several distinct forms: from a simple discourse to its eventual appearance in several manuscripts the essay deliberates on which account should take precedence. (The editorial problem of `versioning' is common with works in progress, although technology will help us greatly in this regard by allowing us to cross-reference more successfully.) Also, Three Guineas was iconoclastic in terms of its presentation as Woolf inserted seemingly non-contextual pictures (a new media) into the manuscript--when combined with her `fictional' letters and academic narrative its message was duly reinforced. The hierarchy of gender was her target, and with Three Guineas as her platform Woolf decried the abuses of power inherent in patriarchal systems. It gained a substantial readership that continues to this day.

Germaine Greer presents an essay, `Editorial Conundra in the Texts of Katherine Philips.' Despite her penchant for controversy, we are reminded of Greer's academic skills as we thread through her evaluation of this remarkable royalist poet--a woman who was forced to concede many of her gifts in the name of social propriety. Orinda (the name Philips adopted as a member of the `Society of Friendship') enlisted poetry to extol the virtues of `female love, honour, equality and literacy.' Yet one edition of her poems was retracted and there remained concerns that her work was altered by others--all in the spirit of the times which demanded creative `collaboration' among the literati.

Academics in feminism and literature should quite enjoy Editing Women; however, it may not sufficiently interest casual readers.

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Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2000
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