Uncategorized | January 30, 2004

Virago is a UK-based publisher that has a series called Virago Modern Classics, started in 1978 and dedicated to the celebration of women writers, to the rediscovery and reprinting of their work. Virago describes their aim as demonstrating “the existence of a female tradition in fiction,” and to broadening “the sometimes narrow definition of a ‘classic’ which has often led to the neglect of interesting novels and short stories.” Virago Modern Classics makes available important, exciting works like Frost in May by Antonia White, Novel on Yellow Paper by Stevie Smith, and the Pilgramage series (written as a feminine equivalent of what was masculine realism) by Dorothy Richardson.

As a Ph.D. candidate teaching and taking classes, I’m always looking at other people’s syllabi and reading lists. Too often I see classes named broadly that include on their reading lists only men, and white men at that. And, yes, it is often white men we know from the periods–whose work has been preserved, or is in the process of being preserved–and it’s not new feminism to be pointing this out. But it’s still what I see, lists designed this way, and why I like Virago Modern Classics. Because they’re pushing against sexism, reminding readers that there were women writing and writing well, and if you don’t know Virago, do; check Virago out.

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