“Not Just Jane restores seven of England’s most fascinating and subversive literary voices to their rightful places in history. Shelley DeWees tells each woman writer’s story with wit, passion, and an astute understanding of the society in which she lived and wrote.”
—Dr. Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
Jane Austen and the Brontës endure as British literature’s leading ladies (and for good reason)—but were these reclusive parsons’ daughters really the only writing women of their day? A feminist history of literary Britain, this witty, fascinating nonfiction debut explores the extraordinary lives and work of seven long-forgotten authoresses, and asks: Why did their considerable fame and influence, and a vibrant culture of female creativity, fade away? And what are we missing because of it?
You’ve likely read at least one Jane Austen novel (or at least seen a film one). Chances are you’ve also read Jane Eyre; if you were an exceptionally moody teenager, you might have even read Wuthering Heights. English majors might add George Eliot or Virginia Woolf to this list…but then the trail ends. Were there truly so few women writing anything of note during late 18th and 19th century Britain?In Not Just Jane, Shelley DeWees weaves history, biography, and critical analysis into a rip-roaring narrative of the nation’s fabulous, yet mostly forgotten, female literary heritage. As the country, and women’s roles within it, evolved, so did the publishing industry, driving legions of ladies to pick up their pens and hit the parchment. Focusing on the creative contributions and personal stories of seven astonishing women, among them pioneers of detective fiction and the modern fantasy novel, DeWees assembles a riveting, intimate, and ruthlessly unromanticized portrait of female life—and the literary landscape—during this era. In doing so, she comes closer to understanding how a society could forget so many of these women, who all enjoyed success, critical acclaim, and a fair amount of notoriety during their time, and realizes why, now more than ever, it’s vital that we remember.
Rediscover Charlotte Turner Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Catherine Crowe, Sara Coleridge, Dinah Mulock Craik, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon.
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About the Author
Shelley DeWees has a graduate degree in ethnomusicology, several tattoos, and a documented obsession with British literature. Her writing has appeared in Austenprose, Jane Austen’s World, and Jane Austen Today, and after time spent teaching in Korea she recently moved back to Minneapolis with her husband.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
How many people – especially women – enjoy fame in their day, but are soon forgotten after their deaths? You only need to scan a list of Academy Award winners to realize that it doesn’t take long for fame to die out, even for many who are really gifted. So true for the authoresses featured in Shelley DeWees’ Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature (Harper Perennial, 2016). Wanting to make the world aware that there’s more to the English literature than some Jane Austin mixed with a little Charlotte Bronte, DeWees introduces her readers to seven famous women almost no one has ever heard of: Charlotte Turner Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Catherine Crowe, Sara Coleridge, Dinah Mulock Craik, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. (Before reading the book, I was only vaguely familiar with two of them, and my husband a different two for different reasons.) These authors had sad, often tragic, lives and struggled to make a living in what was truly a man’s world. More importantly, they once made strong contributions to Britain’s literary scene, yet won’t be found on today’s high school reading lists. DeWees might change that, however. She peeks into each woman’s backstory, showing how their work shaped their lives and vice versa. From poetry to short stories, from major works of fiction to political and social commentaries, these writers left a lasting impression, even if it generally goes unnoticed or unrecognized. DeWess is right. They deserve our consideration today.