To kick off the Women’s Classic Literature Event a few months ago, The Classics Club posted an introductory questionnaire to help participants get acquainted with one another. Here are most of the survey questions and my answers:
Tell us what you are most looking forward to in this event. I look forward to reading a bunch of books that have been on my wish list for years, especially Middlemarch, Indiana by George Sand, and works by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Have you read many classics by women? Why or why not? Yes, I’ve read quite a few classics by women. A few of them were books I read for classes when I was at university. Others were recommended by friends. I also enjoy reading literary criticism and found several titles that way.
Pick a classic female writer you can’t wait to read for the event, & list her date of birth, her place of birth, and the title of one of her most famous works. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz is the writer I’m most looking forward to reading for this event. Sor Juana was born in Mexico in 1651. She became a nun when she was 16 so that she could continue her studies without interruption. She wrote many plays and poems, but her most famous work is Repuesta a Sor Filotea (Answer to Sister Filotea), a passionate defense of women’s right to education.
Favorite classic heroine? (Why? Who wrote her?) Jane Eyre is my favorite classic heroine because she refuses to conform. She is the title character of Charlotte Brontë’s most famous novel. Jane is an atypical heroine, being a plain and often angry penniless orphan. Jane is passionate and yearns for a wider life. Despite her social disadvantages, Jane insists that she is worthy of happiness and love on her own terms.
We’d love to help clubbers find great titles by classic female authors. Can you recommend any sources for building a list? (Just skip this question if you don’t have any at this point.) I found anthologies helpful, particularly the following:
- The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English (3rd ed.) edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
- 500 Great Books by Women by Erica Bauermeister, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith
- Beginning Ethnic American Literatures by Helene Grice, Candida Hepworth, Marie Lauret, and Martin Padget.
- Daughters of Africa: The International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present edited by Margaret Busby
- The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature (3rd ed.) edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Valerie Smith, William L. Andrews, et al
Recommend three books by classic female writers to get people started in this event. (Again, skip over this if you prefer not to answer.) I highly recommend the following:
- The Other Woman by Colette (short novel and stories)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott edited by Madeleine Stern
Will you be joining us for this event immediately, or will you wait until the new year starts? I meant to start at the beginning of the new year but life events intervened. So I’m starting now!
Do you plan to read as inspiration pulls, or will you make out a preset list? I made out a list, but I’m always open to inspiration, too.
Are you pulling to any particular genres? (Letters, journals, biographies, short stories, novels, poems, essays, etc?) About half of the works on my WCLE list are novels and about a fourth of the works are poetry collections, but I’ll also read essays, short stories, at least one play, and some literary criticism for this event.
Are you pulling to a particular era or location in literature by women? Most of the writers on my WCLE list are English or American. I’m reading mostly 20th Century literature for this event.
Do you hope to host an event or readalong for the group? No worries if you don’t have details. We’re just curious! I’d like to participate in a read-along before hosting one, but I’m open to the idea.
Is there an author or title you’d love to read with a group or a buddy for this event? Sharing may inspire someone to offer. I hope to join heavenali’s #Woolfalong (see details here) to reread A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas.
Share a quote you love by a classic female author — even if you haven’t read the book yet. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf writes, “Thus when I ask you to write more books I am urging you to do what will be for your good and for the good of the world at large.” I love her faith in the importance of writing and reading.