In Engaging with Shakespeare: Responses of George Eliot and Other Women Novelists, Marianne Novy combines feminist criticism of women writers with feminist criticism of Shakespeare by examining how a number of novels by women rewrite his works and his cultural image.

“Novy has no difficulty in showing that women novelists, from the late 18th century on, made specific and focused use of Shakespeare for their own purposes.”—Times Higher Education Supplement
“Novy explores the tradition of women 'shaping and responding to Shakespeare's cultural presence' from Aphra Behn to Angela Carter, with emphasis on Austen, Brontë, and (centrally) Eliot, the 'female Shakespeare.' Novy is 'engaged' both with the texts and in an extended dialogue with other critics, particularly (but not exclusively) feminists, on the issue of whether women writers have been typically hostile or receptive to the male canon. She convincingly traces a thread of 'appropriative creativity' in their 'writing back' at Shakespeare, changing his plots, embracing and repudiating his 'sympathy,' and developing an 'increasing self-consciousness about the gender-crossing involved in appropriating him.'”—Choice
“A cogent reconsideration of the preoccupations of several literary periods and a polished intellectual exercise…A narrower criticism might want to fault Novy for an overly sensitive ear to echoes and allusions, and for sometimes hesitating to entertain a more radical feminist ideology. An open evaluation would prefer to praise the uniqueness of her exploration of a vital fictional tradition, and her interpretation of increasingly competing rewritings of Shakespeare's mythical abilities.”—Shakespeare Survey
“A stimulating and significant contribution to women's studies …has a good deal to offer the George Eliot specialist.”—George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Newsletter
“Novy is interested in developing a genealogy of women novelists, from Aphra Behn to Margaret Drabble. She discusses these novelists' influences on one another as well as Shakespeare's influence on them. Especially impressive is Novy's carefully wrought study of George Eliot's evolving relationship to Shakespeare…rich in the kinds of examples that will help to connect feminist Shakespeare studies with other theoretical approaches.”—Shakespeare Quarterly

Chapter 1 - Women Novelists' Engagements with Shakespeare: Prehistory, Early Tradition, and Critical Contexts

Chapter 2 - Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte

Chapter 3 - George Eliot: Early Works

Chapter 4 - Felix Holt

Chapter 5 - Middlemarch

Chapter 6 - Daniel Deronda

Chapter 7 - Uses of Shakespeare by Twentieth-Century Women Novelists

Chapter 8 - Shakespeare in the Cultural Hybridity of Contemporary Women Novelists

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286 pages