Literary Musings

Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: An Appreciation

In the classic A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft argued for equality of men and women: Men and women, in her view, are born with ability to reason, and therefore power and influence should be equally available to all regardless of gender. This was a unique and radical view in 1792 when the book was first published.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects  is considered one of the earliest works of feminist philosophical literature. Read More→


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How Colette Came to Write the Claudine Stories, in Her Own Words

“My name is Claudine, I live in Montigny; I was born there in 1884; I shall probably not die there.” This iconic opening line from Claudine at School  (Claudine à l´Ecole ) by French author Colette (1873 – 1954) has become more familiar to English-speaking audiences thanks to the 2018 biopic, Colette.

In 1900, Colette began publishing the series of Claudine stories that defined the teenage girl of the era. In grounbreaking fashion, these books explored the sexual and mischievous side of a young woman coming into her own. Read More→


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Becoming Virginia Woolf: How Leonard Woolf Wooed Virginia Stephen

Virginia Stephen first met Leonard Woolf while visiting her brother Thoby at Trinity College at Cambridge in 1900. She wore a white dress and carried a parasol, looking like “the most Victorian of Victorian young ladies,” as Leonard described her.

Leonard and Virginia Woolf, as she would later be known, were destined to be together, though it took considerable persistence and many proposals on his part before she agreed to marry him.

According to The American Reader, “Virginia and her elder sister, Vanessa, were described by Leonard Woolf as ‘young women of astonishing beauty …. It was almost impossible for a man not to fall in love with them.’” Brilliant as well as exquisitely beautiful, Virginia attracted many admirers, both male and female. Read More→


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Zora and Me: How I Found Myself by Discovering Zora Neale Hurston

The following essay by Marita Golden is adapted from Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, an anthology edited by Glory Edim:

I saw myself, found myself, and remade myself over and over learning and discovering Zora Neale Hurston. She became and has become a continuing source of possibility and pride for me.

When I think of Zora—and we call her Zora, using her first name only because we want to claim her as sister, mother, friend—I always remember that the Black people chronicled in her novels, folklore, journalism, anthropology, and plays offer to the world a people who are a symphony, not some trembling minor key. Read More→


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6 Fascinating African-American Women Writers of the 19th Century

Given the circumstances of the 19th century, both before and after emancipation, African-American women writers who took up the pen to write full books or other substantial bodies of work were rare indeed.

It’s worth noting that before the Civil War, it was illegal to teach African-Americans to read in many states, not just in the South. So to write a novel or autobiography was a radical act for a black woman of that era, whether she had been enslaved or free born.

Not surprisingly, many of the books, essays, and poetry produced by African-American women writers dealt with slavery. Most of the autobiographies and thinly veiled novels discussed here were in the genre of slave narrative. Read More→


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