Obstetric realism and sacred cows: women writers and book reviewing in Australia

Melinda Harvey, Julieanne Lamond

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


This chapter surveys the long history of discussions around gender and book reviewing in Australia. It provides an overview of some common attitudes to books by women in Australian reviews since the nineteenth century as well as some key flashpoints in the history of Australian women’s writing in which the reviews played a part. We identify significant continuities in how women’s writing is described in the pages of book reviews, from the nineteenth century until recently: women are presumed to be writing from ‘life,’ not art; they are infantilised and/or sexualised and conflated with their protagonists; and the praise they receive is circumscribed by gendered assumptions about genre and genius. We also discuss several controversies about gender and book reviewing – in the mid-1980s and the 2010s – to think about the impact that gendered reviewing practices continue to have on the careers and aspirations of women writers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Companion to Australian Literature
EditorsJessica Gildersleeve
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781003124160
ISBN (Print)9780367643560
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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