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Title: Do we still need Virago? : fragmenting feminisms and the reflection of change through women's literary output and industry, 1973-2007
Author: Riley, Catherine E.
Awarding Body: Birkbeck College, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis takes the UK feminist publishers Virago as its subject, tracking the company from its inception in 1973 to the present day. The main focus is on the literary output of the press, alongside its success as a business, putting both of these aspects in the context of wider feminist debates. In the first section, which spans 1973-1983, the thesis examines the limited cultural roles - of wife, mother or sex object - available to women as second-wave feminism gets underway. Virago plays a key role in challenging these stereotypes, both through publication of feminist theory and fiction, and through the example of its own female staff who defy such cultural expectations. This section foregrounds the historical sexism of the book industry - from publishing to sales, reviewing to writing. The second section examines the period 1984-1994, taking in the fragmentation of feminism that results from exploration of race, class, sexuality and other identity politics. Once again, Virago can be located at the heart of these debates, publishing key texts and authors, as well as validating new genres of women's writing by making crime, sci-fi, romantic and other types of new feminist fiction available. This section examines, too, the extent to which publishing becomes more inclusive of women - both in terms of their representation in the industry and the recognition of their worth as consumers of literature. In the final section, spannmg 1995-2007, the focus is on the queering of gender, embodiment and sexuality post-Butler, and the further dissolution of feminism - made evident in the disavowal of the' f-word'. Queer notions of gender trouble the validity of a publisher that is defined through its insistence on the difference of sex - Virago publishes only women's writing. The press's sale in 1995 to a multinational conglomerate also troubles the notion that Virago can still be figured as an independent outlet for women's writing. The thesis will thus examine the extent to which, in its past and current structures, Virago can be said to direct or to diverge from changing feminist ideologies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available