1st Edition

The Routledge Companion to Literature and Feminism

Edited By Rachel Carroll, Fiona Tolan Copyright 2024

    The Routledge Companion to Literature and Feminism brings unique literary, critical, and historical perspectives to the relationship between women’s writing and women’s rights in British contexts from the late eighteenth century to the present.

    Thematically organised around five central concepts—Rights, Networks, Bodies, Production, and Activism—the Companion tracks vital questions and debates, offering fresh perspectives on changing priorities and enduring continuities in relation to women’s ongoing struggle for liberty and equality. This groundbreaking collection brings into focus the historical and cultural conditions which have shaped the formation of British literary feminisms, including the legacies of slavery, colonialism, and Empire. From the political novel of the 1790s to early twentieth-century suffrage theatre and contemporary ecofeminism, and from the mid-Victorian antislavery movement to anti-fascist activism in the 1930s and working-class women’s writing groups in the 1980s, this book testifies to the diverse and dynamic character of the relationship between literature and feminism.

    Featuring contributions from leading feminist scholars, the Companion offers new insights into the crucial role played by women’s literary production in the evolving history of women’s rights discourses, feminist activism, and movements for gender equality. It will appeal to students and scholars in the fields of women’s writing, British literature, cultural history, and gender and feminist studies.

    List of Contributors


    Introduction: Writing Women’s Rights - from Enlightenment to Ecofeminism

    Rachel Carroll and Fiona Tolan

    Part I: Rights

      • KRAMER, Kaley: Like Nobody Else: women and independence in the novels of Charlotte Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft

      • WALCHESTER, Kathryn: Romantic Women Travel Writers, Politics and the Environment: An ecofeminist reading of the Swiss landscape

      • HABIBI, Helena: Feminism and Animal Advocacy in the Long Nineteenth Century: Anne Brontë and the ‘abuses of society’

      • WALKER GORE, Clare: "They all revolved about her": Disability, femininity and power in mid-Victorian women’s writing

      • MITCHELL, Kaye: The "quest for harmony"? Utopia, matriarchal communities, and feminist self-critique

      • GWENFFREWI, Gina: Jan Morris and the Territory Between: Interrogating nation and normality in contemporary Welsh trans writing

      Part II: Networks

      • WYNNE, Deborah: "Men shall not make us foes": Charlotte Brontë’s letters and her female friendship networks

      • ELLIOTT, Clare Frances: Transatlantic Feminism and Antislavery Activism: Women’s networks, letter writing, and literature in the long nineteenth century

      • ROSE, Lucy Ella: Forgotten Feminist Fiction: Netta Syrett, New Woman writing and women’s suffrage

      • PICKARD, Emily L.: "It was little more than a dining club": Examining the epistolary networks of Willa Muir and Helen B. Cruickshank in the founding of Scottish PEN

      • CARELESS, Eleanor: "What means a frontier?": Nancy Cunard, feminist internationalism and the Spanish Civil War

      Part III: Bodies

      • EDWIN, Marl’ene: Reputation of [her] Pen: Retrieving the black female body from the margins of the page and the stage

      • FORD, Jane: "We wear the bandages, but our limbs have not grown to them": Eugenic feminism and female economic dependence in Mona Caird, Olive Schreiner, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman

      • FUNKE, Jana: Lesbian-Trans-Feminist Modernism and Sexual Science: Irene Clyde and Urania

      • OLIVER, Sophie: "Beauty in Revolt": Fashioning feminists in Rebecca West and Jean Rhys

      • OSBORNE, Deirdre: "The rule of three": Textual triads, trialogues and women’s voices in Sylvia Plath, Jackie Kay, and debbie tucker green

      • HANSON, Clare: Feminism, Eugenics, and Genetics: From convergence to contestation

      Part IV: Production

      • CHO, Nancy Jiwon: "O Happiness, thou pleasing dream, / Where is thy substance found?": Anne Steele’s public and private eighteenth-century writings on happiness

      • WEST, Elizabeth: "Dearest Norah…": The professional and personal relationships forged between an editor and her authors

      • WILSON, Nicola: Feminist citation in Buchi Emecheta’s Early Fiction and Autobiography: Publishing race, class, and gender

      • CARROLL, Rachel: "Working with cloth": Materialising women's creative labour in the work of Rosamond Lehmann, Beryl Bainbridge, and Joan Riley

      • WILSON, Kate: "To the sisters I always wanted": Women, writers’ groups, and print culture in Glasgow, 1980-1988

      • EVANS, Bethan and Jenni Ramone: Mother Country: Leonora Brito writes Wales – black British identity, maternity, and memory in the Welsh short story

      Part V: Activism

      • O’BRIEN, Eliza: In a Circle with Mary Hays: Writing novels to reform society in the 1790s

      • VARMA PUSAPATI, Teja: In the Advance Guard of Victorian Literary Feminism: The actress as an independent woman and social reformer in Eliza Lynn’s Realities: A Tale (1851)

      • DREDGE, Sarah: "Rice puddings, made without milk": Mother Seacole reforms "home habits" in the Crimea.

      • PAXTON, Naomi: "Your Great Adventure is to report her faithfully": The centring of women’s voices and stories in suffrage theatre

      • TOLAN, Fiona: A Life Can Be a Manifesto: Connecting Bernadine Evaristo to a history of feminist manifestos

      • CHEDGZOY, Kate and Rosalind Haslett, Catrina McHugh: Holding Women’s Voices: Open Clasp as an example of feminist theatre practice

      • DEININGER, Michelle: Protecting the Land, Safeguarding the Future: Ecofeminism, activist women’s writing and contemporary publishing in Wales



      Rachel Carroll is Associate Professor in English at Teesside University, UK. She is the author of Transgender and the Literary Imagination: Changing Gender in Twentieth-Century Writing (2018) and Rereading Heterosexuality: Feminism, Queer Theory and Contemporary Fiction (2012).

      Fiona Tolan is Reader in Contemporary Women’s Writing at Liverpool John Moores University, UK. She is the author of The Fiction of Margaret Atwood (2022) and Margaret Atwood: Feminism and Fiction (2007).

      "Bold and imaginative in its aims, this Companion presents an exciting mix of under-represented writers alongside canonical figures. Both global and local in scope, it is a rare example of a book that foregrounds the internal diversity of Britain and its constituent nations while addressing urgent transnational issues including decolonisation and the environmental crisis." - Professor Kirsti Bohata, Swansea University

      "The Routledge Companion to Literature and Feminism offers a wonderful combination of historical scope, innovative readings of a wide range of texts and a consistently stimulating exploration of literary, cultural and political ideas. It is an indispensable study for anyone interested in how literature and feminism speak to each other." - Mary Eagleton, formerly Professor of Contemporary Women's Writing, Leeds Beckett University

      "This wide-ranging collection offers a welcome addition to the scholarship, re-shaping readers’ understandings of the rich, diverse traditions of British feminism(s) in literature and charting out paths for literary feminism’s future directions." - Anne Schwan, Professor in Literary and Cultural Studies, Edinburgh Napier University

      "At a time when Equality Matters for All, Rachel Carroll and Fiona Tolan's timely edited collection asks vital questions and analyses key debates from the late eighteenth century to the present in Britain. Well-known scholars explore the historical and cultural conditions of women's writing and women's rights across the nation. With its sensitive compilation of evolving debates on British feminism the volume is a must read for both beginners and established scholars interested in the woman question and its connectivity to matters related to equality, diversity and inclusion." - Amina Yaqin, Associate Professor in World Literatures and Publishing, University of Exeter