Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Women Writers: "Sugar and spice, and all things nice"

Gender has been an issue in literature for as long as books have been written. Whether it be picking apart the gender roles represented in classic novels, exploring the fact that a certain writer created a protagonist of the opposite gender, or debating the relevance of a writer's gender in a particular time period, it's always been under the microscope.

Even now, with the age of Feminism somewhat behind us, people are still raising a ruckus over gender. Take this year's literary awards, for example.

As I was browsing the Huffington Post's website today, I stumbled upon at least three posts about female writers sweeping this year's awards:

Nobel Prize in Literature: Herta Müller
Man Book Prize in Fiction: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
Pulitzer Prize in Fiction: Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge
Man Booker International Prize: Alice Munro
LA Times Book Prize in Fiction and The Orange Prize: Marilynne Robinson, Home

Initially, I was intrigued by Erica Jong's article "Big News: Women Can Write!" and I clicked curiously. But as I started reading, it made me cringe that the post had even been written in the first place. Then, when I came across a few more articles on the same subject, my cringe became an all out frown.

I'd heard some of the award results already myself (and read Strout's fantastic short story collection), but I hadn't clumped the winners by gender. Why should I? They're just brilliant authors whose literary merits are being rewarded. Everyone suddenly seems so shocked that women can actually be talented writers.

Jessie Kundart's post, for example, "Women Sweep Literature Prizes," noted:

Is it an accident, the judging panels, a mini-trend or are the tides turning? With the sweep of this year's literary awards, all eyes are on the women who won. Judges' comments are noting the detail, vividness and emotional power of their writing.
Quite frankly, I don't understand why anyone cares. No one's jaw drops when all men win these awards. There is no conspiracy here, friends. It's just a little thing called coincidence. So, let it go and pick up one of the year's best, regardless of its author's gender.

Another startling coincidence: just as this topic is being publicized, Random House publishes a new edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, one of the most significant woman-penned classics, and no longer lists Mary as its sole author. The cover now claims "Mary Shelley (with Percy Shelley).

To read more about this interesting debate, check out Victoria Rosner's post, "Co-Creating a Monster," as she asks herself "why [...] Percy [is] now getting marquee billing?"

No comments:

Post a Comment