The principal objective of this project, funded by DFG and made possible by the support of the LMU, is to document and interpret the work of British women writers between 1945 and 1960 and to assess their cultural impact. The project is initiated and conducted by Ingo Berensmeyer, Professor of Modern English Literature at the LMU Munich. It combines insights and methods from gender studies, literary sociology, postclassical narratology, new authorship studies, and the digital humanities in order to study the role of literature in processes of cultural change. As many women writers from this period are currently being rediscovered, there is a need for more systematic research in this field.
In order to support such research, this project has three goals. This website was the first goal, the documentation of our findings made publicly available. The aim is to offer an electronic database in a wiki format to collect information and to make this information available to the public as a tool for research and teaching. Our database includes entries for 1.100 British women writers of the period.
The second, upcoming goal is textual interpretation. The project pursues an intersectional study of constructions of gender in texts by women writers in connection with issues of domesticity, class boundaries and issues considered socially taboo or unwholesome at the time, such as female criminality, adultery, madness or homosexuality. This research will result in case studies of selected writers and texts from various genres, taking the form of close readings/textual analysis. They will also address the question of how certain genres (such as the confessional lyric or the kitchen-sink drama) influenced or pre-formatted what could be expressed in a given context, and to what extent and on what levels state censorship still played a role in this period.
The third goal is to gain a wider cultural-historical perspective on the development, production and reception of British women writers: to study how sex (the ascription of being male or female) functioned as a category of difference and value in the British literary system of the 1940s and 1950s. This part of the project addresses the question how women writers staged themselves or were staged as (women) authors by other cultural agents (publishers, reviewers, censors, etc.), and also the question of their cultural impact or afterlife until today. This objective combines insights from the documentation of authors and the textual interpretation of sources with recent advances in authorship studies that focus less on individual writers than on cultural networks.
For now, we hope the database serves as an extensive summary of British women writers between 1945 and 1960 and can be used for purposes of research all over the world. We encourage you to give feedback or point us towards mistakes or omissions. Please use the contact form or the comment function to reach us.
Lastly, we would like to give thanks once more to the DFG the LMU. A special thank you goes to the blog Furrowed Middlebrow for offering such a detailed and interesting compilation of American, British and Irish women writers between 1910 and 1960. Without this list, our project could not have been as successful. The gathering and assorting of data has been done mainly by most helpful research assistants, Sonja Trurnit, Elena Habelt, and Clara Multerer.