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Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781472159458

Price: £14.99

ON SALE: 18th July 2024

Genre: Literature & Literary Studies

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‘I am beginning to realize that taking the self out of our essays is a form of repression. Taking the self out feels like obeying a gag order – pretending an objectivity where there is nothing objective about the experience of confronting and engaging with and swooning over literature’

On the last day of December 2009 Kate Zambreno, then an unpublished writer, began a blog arising from her obsession with literary modernism. Widely shared on social media, Zambreno’s blog became an outlet for her highly informed and passionate rants and melancholy portraits of the fates of the modernist ‘wives and mistresses,’ reclaiming the traditionally pathologized biographies of Vivienne Eliot, Jane Bowles, Jean Rhys, and Zelda Fitzgerald: writers and artists themselves who served as male writers’ muses only to end their lives silenced, erased, and institutionalized. Over the course of two years, her blog helped create a community of writers and devised a new feminist discourse of writing in the margins and developing an alternative canon.

In Heroines, Zambreno extends the polemic she began online into a dazzling, original work of literary scholarship. Combing theories that have dictated what literature should be and who is allowed to write it – she traces the genesis of a cultural template that consistently exiles feminine experience to the realm of the ‘minor,’ and diagnoses women for transgressing social bounds. ‘ANXIETY: When she experiences it, it’s pathological,’ writes Zambreno. ‘When he does, it’s existential.’

With Heroines, Zambreno provided a model for a newly subjectivized criticism, prefiguring many group biographies and forms of autotheory and hybrid memoirs that were to come in the years to follow.


It's kind of a book of utterances . . . its beautiful and I love it
Kristen Stewart
Heroines is rigorous and confident, fiercely intelligent in its demand for a fairer way of reading, writing and writing about women - past, present and future
Juliet Jacques, New Statesman
Zambreno doesn't write with the measured voice of someone who can count on being listened to, but with the wail of someone confined to a shed
Sheila Heti, London Review of Books
If you thought you knew a lot about the "wives" of modernism and the various forms of silencing they suffered, Kate Zambreno's Heroines will teach you more; if you didn't know much, your mouth will fall open in enraged amazement
Maggie Nelson
The book is startlingly insightful
A lush, lyrical feminist memoir
Laurie Penny, New Statesman