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This review is taken from PN Review 113, Volume 23 Number 3, January - February 1997.

TOWARDS GRUB STREET JANE DAWSON ed. Women's Poetry of the 1930s: A Critical Anthology (Routledge)
GILL PLAIN, Women's Fiction of the Second World War: Gender, Power, Resistance (Edinburgh University Press)
GARY DAY & BRIAN DOCHERTY eds. British Poetry 1900-50: Aspects of Tradition (Macmillan) £10.99

'Men make their own history,' said Marx, at the beginning of The Eighteenth Brumairc of Louis Bonaparte, 'but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under conditions chosen by themselves, but under conditions given and transmitted from the past'. Still less do men and women choose the conditions under which they make metahistory, including that literary-critical-theoretical branch which is currently bearing fruit in revisions of the notion of tradition. This widespread collective effort to re-think the notions of canon and tradition doesn't just grow spontaneously from the intellectual soil, nor is it invariably carried out under favourable conditions. The university teachers engaged in revising the canon are all under increasingly heavy pressure to publish as much as possible as quickly as possible. And when academic publishing moves towards Grub Street, its products become increasingly sour and unripe. It is therefore not surprising that the three books reviewed here (one very good, one not quite as good as it should be but still original and stimulating, and the third a curate's egg - 'parts of it are excellent'), all seem to have suffered, though not to the same degree, from the current pressure to publish too fast or too much. The degree of each writer's success seems directly connected to her or his ability to resist these pressures.

To begin with the best news: Jane Dowson's anthology of Thirties women poets is an important and welcome book, which definitively corrects the ...


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