Eve Bites Back: An Alternative History of English Literature (Hardcover)
Anna Beer investigates the lives and achievements of eight women writers, uncovering a startling and unconventional history of literature
Margery Kempe. Aemilia Lanyer. Aphra Behn. Lady Mary. Jane Austen.
Warned not to write – and certainly not to bite – these women put pen to paper anyway and wrote themselves into history.
‘Smart, funny and highly readable... a tour de force.’ A.L. Kennedy
Ever since Sappho first put stylus to papyrus, women who write have been labelled mad, undisciplined and dangerous. Funny and provocative, Eve Bites Back offers an alternative history of English literature. Placing the female contemporaries of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton centre stage, Anna Beer builds a vibrant new canon through Restoration wits, scandalous sensation novelists and medieval mystics.
Delving into the lives and work of eight pioneers – Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Aemilia Lanyer, Anne Bradstreet, Aphra Behn, Mary Wortley Montagu, Jane Austen and Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Beer uncovers the struggles and triumphs of these gamechangers, ground-breakers and genre-makers.
About the Author
Anna Beer is a cultural historian and biographer. She is author of Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music and Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh, as well as biographies of Bess Throckmorton, William Shakespeare and John Milton. She is a Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College, University of Oxford.
‘A smart, funny and highly readable journey through the lives of women writers and the challenges they and their works face. It’s an informative, enthusiastic and rightly enraging tour de force.’ —A.L. Kennedy
'Essential reading.' —Claire Tomalin
'In this splendid alternative history of English literature, Anna Beer shows that "simply by putting words together on the page" women authors have for centuries fought back… [an] excellent study: "let’s scavenge and rebuild in the face of the destruction of women’s work…Let’s find the precious gems amidst the rubble."' —Guardian
'Eve Bites Back isn’t pleading for justice for female writers, it’s indicting a system that has long ignored them and, to some extent, still does… Part polemic, part revisionist criticism, Eve Bites Back, as its title suggests, is sharp and aggressive, a book that will irritate, enlighten, persuade and provoke argument. It’s a work of correction, in every sense of the word.’ —Washington Post
'A totally absorbing and enlightening tour through the work of eight significant women authors – with one of the funniest introductory chapters ever.' —Sarah Bakewell
'Writing with energy, wit and at times barely suppressed fury, Anna Beer brings to life the struggle to be heard of eight women writers over 500 years. Her subtle literary excavations are both informative and a gripping read.' —David Goodhart, founder editor of Prospect
'Startling stories and facts on every page. Written with a clear and authoritative voice, this is both a very entertaining and very important book about the many obstacles that women have overcome to be writers, and the long struggles even the most gifted and well-connected women authors have encountered in order to be taken seriously.' —Yasmin Khan, associate professor of history, University of Oxford
'Anna Beer is one of those very rare writers who are able to combine rigorous research with a gripping and thoroughly accessible style. This is an ambitious, authoritative, feisty book and a worthy successor to her inspirational Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.' —Kate Kennedy, author of Dweller in Shadows
'Eve Bites Back … is shaped by the same principles [as Beer’s earlier work] – feminist indignation, certainly, but also a drive to share ideas and observations about a diverse body of achievement, emerging from historical periods radically different from our own … invigorating.' —Dinah Birch, TLS
'A delightful, and challenging read.' —New York Journal of Books
'A thorough, wide-reaching overview of women’s literary accomplishments viewed through a fresh, modern lens … Eve Bites Back is an exemplary work of literary criticism.' —Foreword Reviews
'In her alternative history of English literature, Eve Bites Back, cultural historian and biographer Anna Beer takes up arms against the patriarchy… extensive and meticulous.' —Washington Independent Review of Books