'Marked on the [...] map for future reference': The Erasure of Women Writers from the 1930s

Jake O'Leary

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


In the 1930s, British women writers published frequently and were widely read. Established authors like Virginia Woolf and younger writers such as Sylvia Townsend Warner, Storm Jameson and Naomi Mitchison published novels, poetry and non-fiction that used aesthetic experimentation to engage critically with the feminist, pacifist and antifascist politics of the day.

Despite this, women writers are almost entirely absent from the literary histories of the 1930s that have established dominant representations of the decade. Written during the Cold War period by male scholars like Julian Symons, Samuel Hynes and Valentine Cunningham, these histories focus primarily on the male writers grouped around W. H. Auden. This paper argue that these studies use multiple strategies to exclude or marginalise women writers, including not only outright omission, but also inaccurate generalisations, accusations of crudeness and the deferral of critical attention to future studies.

I ground my analysis of these strategies within the cultural context of the Cold War. From the 1950s, the American and British states covertly funded magazines aimed at severing the link between aesthetics and politics that characterised much 1930s writing. My paper will argue that the erasure from 1930s histories of women writers, who combined radical politics and aesthetics, can be understood as a function of Cold War hegemony. It will also consider the implications of this cultural legacy for contemporary debates about canon formation and women’s participation in online spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018
EventGender at a Crossroads: SWW DTP Gender & Sexuality Cluster Annual Conference - Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 May 201816 May 2018


ConferenceGender at a Crossroads
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • gender
  • women writers
  • 1930s
  • Cold War
  • Aesthetics
  • Politics


Dive into the research topics of ''Marked on the [...] map for future reference': The Erasure of Women Writers from the 1930s'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this