Hester Thrale Piozzi, portrait of a literary woman /
William McCarthy.
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c1985.
xiii, 306 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
More Details
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c1985.
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. [287]-296.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1986-10:
Hester Thrale Piozzi has been known to students of literary history as the capricious but devoted friend of Samuel Johnson, one of his chief bulwarks against melancholy. Such gentlemanly commonplaces are being subjected to increasing scrutiny by feminist scholars and students of women's history within a general revisionist project (in which men in some numbers are beginning to take part). McCarthy enters the lists as Piozzi's champion in order to rescue her works from neglect and her reputation as a writer from prejudiced disparagement. As a recovery operation, this literary biography mostly succeeds. Apt quotation of Piozzi's own colloquial and epigrammatic forcefulness will make readers seek out her writings. But as an interpretation of Piozzi as a (the?) representative neglected woman writer of the period, this study is at once too theoretically limited, too schematically and naively ``feminist,'' and too quirkily written to succeed as fully as one might wish. Relying heavily on Harold Bloom's theory of the anxieties of influence and the Bloomian feminist paradigm of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, McCarthy rather speculatively and reductively casts Piozzi as a rebellious parodist of Johnson and other male writers, her entire career fueled by that peculiar resentment that gender exclusions perpetuate. Rather too many of Piozzi's limitations as a poet and prose stylist are dismissed as the epiphenomena of gender inequalities. It is as if every shortcoming of a woman writer were explicable solely in terms of her sexually based marginalization by the literary establishment. Such simple explanations are historically reductive. We should be grateful for the scholarly energy of McCarthy's defense, without overlooking the consequences of his apologist's zeal.-D. Landry, University of Southern California
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 1986
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