Shouldn’t we have discovered more Austens and Brontës — or even another writer as singular as Mary Shelley — among these pioneering hundreds by now? A cynic might answer that we haven’t because there aren’t any others. To this way of thinking, three female geniuses (or five, maybe six, if we include every Brontë and George Eliot) survived because a meritocracy of authorship worked out perfectly.
A more optimistically patient person might answer that, even after all these years of feminist archaeology, we still haven’t looked hard enough. It may be that finding female fiction writers who’ve been absent from history for more than a century requires another century for collective recognition and rediscovery.
But perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the ways we’ve been looking are part of the problem. When we go in search of new Austens or Brontës, we’re imagining we’ll find novels that remind us positively of theirs. We claim we’re searching for something new, and equally original, but in effect we’re seeking out literary echoes, not wholly distinct virtuoso performances.To find great female novelists, stop looking in Jane Austen’s shadow – The Washington Post
I was a little disappointed not to see Sophia Lee (“The Recess”) included in this article; her book is widely reputed to be the first historical novel, published in 1793. But it was nice to see Jane Porter, and her excellent “The Scottish Chiefs,” get a nod.