Encyclopedia of Women's Autobiography
[2 volumes]
by Victoria Boynton, Jo Malin
August 2005, 664pp, 7x10
2 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-32737-7
$201, £155, 175€, A276
eBook Available: 978-0-313-06076-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Nearly 200 alphabetically arranged entries by more than 130 expert contributors discuss women’s autobiography and autobiographers from around the world.

Women have been writing about their lives for hundreds of years, and their autobiographical works are a record of the eras and cultures in which they lived. Through nearly 200 alphabetically arranged entries written by more than 130 expert contributors, this encyclopedia overviews women autobiographers and autobiography from the Middle Ages to the present. Entries discuss individual writers, major works, national and ethnic autobiographical traditions, particular autobiographical genres, and special terms, issues, and themes related to women’s autobiography from around the world. Entries cite works for further reading, and the encyclopedia closes with a selected, general bibliography.

Women have been writing autobiographical works for centuries, and these texts are a valuable source of information about their lives and times. They reflect the personal experiences of their authors as well as the larger cultural, political, and intellectual contexts in which they lived and wrote. Multicultural in scope and the first work of its kind, this encyclopedia overviews more than 400 years of autobiographical writing by women.

Working with the assistance of distinguished scholar and advisory editor Emmanuel S. Nelson, the volume editors have assembled nearly 200 alphabetically arranged entries by more than 130 expert contributors. The entries cover individual writers and major works, particular autobiographical genres, national and ethnic autobiographical traditions, and special issues, themes, and terms related to women’s autobiography.

Because of the sustained interest in works by women writers and the centrality of many of these works to the curriculum, high school libraries will need this essential reference. Public libraries supporting research in this area will also find it a valuable guide to the rich tradition of life writing by women and to the wider realm of gender studies.


Entries encourage students to write about their own lives. Highlights the literary contributions of women across time and cultures. Promotes respect for cultural diversity. Assists students in understanding literary genres and forms. Helps students compare and contrast literary works from different periods and places. Entries serve as models for student writing. Helps students relate literature to history, since autobiographies often reflect historical events. Aids students in understanding texts central to the curriculum. Introduces students to less widely studied authors. Contains nearly 200 alphabetically arranged entries. Gathers together the work of more than 130 scholars. Provides biographical entries. Includes entries on numerous special topics. Covers women's autobiography from around the world. Spans women's autobiography from the ancient world to the present. Entries cite current research. Includes an extensive index. Entries are fully cross-referenced. Presents a selected, general bibliography of major works.


Selected Reference Works, 2005 C&RL, January 1, 2005


"This work fills a large void. In the last 30 years, feminist scholars in many fields have mined the rich texts of women's life writings to reveal unique insights concerning women's personal and gendered perspectives. Following a table of contents, the Encyclopedia entries are alphabetically listed. A Guide to Related Topics covers names, titles, nationalities or ethnicities, genres and/or styles, and keywords/terms. The signed, alphabetical entries, ranging from about two to more than ten pages, fill the two volumes; contributors are academic experts from over 15 countries. The contents are well written and engaging, avoiding excessive jargon. They range from autobiographies of individuals (e.g., Adrienne Rich, Sojourner Truth, Isak Dinesen) to those of specific ethnicities or nationalities (e.g., African American Women's Autobiography) to important genres and terms (e.g., Captivity/Prison Narrative, Diary, Feminism, and Voice). Each entry contains a list of further readings....[t]his is a welcome resource. Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers."—Choice, February 1, 2006

"Its encyclopedic and culturally diverse nature should appeal to a wide audience and provide a valuable starting point for further research. Recommended for all libraries, particularly high school, undergraduate, and public."—Library Journal, October 15, 2005

"Some of the names one might expect, such as Erica Jong, Anais Nin, Adrienne Rich, Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf. Others, lesser-known, include Hildegard von Bingen, Jamaica Kincaid, Shirley Geok-lin Lim and Bharatis Kukherjee. In two volumes, 190 entries comprise brief biographies combined with extended examination of the subject's writing; geographical articles covering autobiography from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, the Pacific, Russia, and Scandinavia; material specific to ethnic identities; essays on historical events;analysis of key issues such as identity, patriarchy and relational autobiography; and seminal works such as The Book of Margery Kempe and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The entries are accessible and give students and scholars fundamental information and a solid starting-off point for more intensive study."—Art Book News Annual, January 1, 2007

"[T]his encyclopedia would be useful for any person researching in the field of women's literature and/or gender studies, and would be a good acquisition for a humanities collection."—Reference Reviews, August 1, 2006

"Although primarily filling a gap in reference works about autobiographical writings by women, this work is also a welcome addition for women's studies, English literature, and literary criticism, and its references to primary sources are also relevant to women's history. The emphasis throughout on gender, race, and class makes this work useful for postcolonial and ethnic studies as well....The entries are consistently well written and informative and include strong bibliographical references for further reading....This unique and lively resource deserves consideration."—Reference & User Services Quarterly, April 1, 2006

"This encyclopedia has much to recommend it: it is international in scope and includes a good mix of entries for authors, specific autobiographies, genres/styles, nationalities or ethnicities, and key terms. The 190 signed entries are well written and long enough to provide a good introduction to each topic. Bibliographies at the end of each entry list primary and secondary sources....The Encyclopedia of Women's Autobiograhpy will be especially useful for its treatment of nearly fifty genre and technical terms, including autoethnicity, alterity, voice, embodiment, identity, self-help narrative, and relational autobiography; and for the twenty-seven articles that address women's autobiography from a national or regional perspective."—College & Research Libraries, March 1, 2006

"The 200 alphabetically arranged articles are international in scope and cover the last millennium. The earliest writer included is Hildegarde von Bingen (1098-1179 C.E.) and the youngest is Donna Williams (1963-). The editors interpret autobiography broadly; entries include Autobiographical fiction, Biography, Captivity/prison narratives, Confession, Diary, and Memoir....Appendixes, a time line, and a guide to topical articles help readers identify autobiographers by ethnicity, nationality, chronological period, or other characteristics. Topical articles are comprehensive, ranging from 3 pages to more than 30 pages. The lengthy bibliographies are rich with primary and secondary sources, anthologies, and articles....[t]he superb quality of its scholarship and its enlightening articles make the Encyclopedia of Women's Autobiography an important and highly recommended acquisition for academic and large public libraries and for high-school libraries supporting women's studies curricula."—Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin, January 1, 2006

Given the interest in women's autobiographical writings among scholars and general readers, the ^IEncyclopedia^R is recommended for both university and public libraries.—Feminist Collections, 00/00/00
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