In 1977, Susan Sniader Lanser and Evelyn Torton Beck asked a provocative question: “Why are there no great women critics?”2 Their query was in part rhetorical, for in the very essay to which it gives title, they go on to offer examples of women critics whose work fails to receive its due in standard anthologies and histories of criticism. Names such as Charlotte Lennox, Clara Reeve, and Vernon Lee provide them with instances of groundbreaking women’s criticism that since its first appearance has been largely dismissed.3 Lanser and Beck suggest that women’s criticism fails to garner the respect it deserves partly because the difference in perspective between women writers and their male counterparts shapes women’s compositions in ways that make them an ill fit with standards and concerns subsequently developed by men from writing by men. Hence, though women’s criticism may have been well regarded in its day, it was soon forgotten or, if remembered at all, held up to “some pre-established norms” against which it is “judged to be defective.”4


Middle Class Eighteenth Century Literary Criticism Literary Form Professional Woman 
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Copyright information

© Mary A. Waters 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary A. Waters
    • 1
  1. 1.Wichita State UniversityUSA

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