Cover: Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction, from Harvard University PressCover: Communities of Women in E-DITION

Communities of Women

An Idea in Fiction

Available from De Gruyter »

Product Details


$65.00 • £54.95 • €60.00

ISBN 9780674280236

Publication Date: 01/01/1978

222 pages


Harvard University Press has partnered with De Gruyter to make available for sale worldwide virtually all in-copyright HUP books that had become unavailable since their original publication. The 2,800 titles in the “e-ditions” program can be purchased individually as PDF eBooks or as hardcover reprint (“print-on-demand”) editions via the “Available from De Gruyter” link above. They are also available to institutions in ten separate subject-area packages that reflect the entire spectrum of the Press’s catalog. More about the E-ditions Program »

This book about women in fiction explores changing visions of female independence. Initiation into a band of brothers, Nina Auerbach notes, is an honored tradition, symbolized by rituals and shared loyalties, but sisterhood suggests less fellowship than an anti-society. Provocatively but not polemically, she examines the complex attitudes communities of women evoke in fiction and in cultural and social commentary.

Woman’s primary community is the family, and families organized by mothers and daughters begin the book: in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women we see contrasts in the experience of sisterhood and the anticipation of its ending in marriage. Female management out side the home is exemplified by Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford and the cloistered school of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. Both these female communities are bastions of enchantment against the outside “real” masculine world. But Henry James’s The Bostonians and George Gissing’s The Odd Women reflect a new era of institutionalized feminism; here we find visions of female communities vested with indisputable power. A reading of twentieth century women writers—Muriel Spark, for example—reveals communities of women fiercely aware of their historical resonance.

The communities in these novels are informed by their self-sufficient power to make a life and a reality apart from men. The book thus defines a tradition in which women are victors, not victims. Nina Auerbach writes with grace and wit.

Recent News

From Our Blog

Jacket: Why We Act: Turning Bystanders into Moral Rebels, by Catherine A. Sanderson, from Harvard University Press

Getting through a Crisis

How do we respond when a crisis occurs? And how do we know what to do? Catherine Sanderson, a renowned psychologist who has done pioneering research on social norms and the author of Why We Act: Turning Bystanders into Moral Rebels, tells us that we tend to look to each other for answers—and that’s why it’s important we model proper behavior for those around us. In October of my senior year at Stanford, I was in a

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library ( extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.