Was Anna Kavan a feminist writer ?

proto-feminism|women writings

Anna Kavan © Orlando Project

webpage, 2006-2014

Women's Writing in the British isles from the Beginnings to the Present

Time Bites

book, 2004

Towards the end of this long life, Goethe said that he had only just learned how to read. In this collection of the very best of Doris Lessing's essays - never before published in book form - we are treated to the wisdom and keen insight of a writer who has herself learned, over the course of a long, rich, life, to read the world differently.

Locational Feminism: Gender, Cultural Geographies, and Geopolitical Literacy


A locational feminism is one that acknowledges the historically and geographically specific forms in which feminism emerges, takes root, changes, travels, translates, and transplants in different spacio/temporal contexts.

Quand la folie se racontait: récit et antipsychiatrie

book, 1990

De Unica Zurn à Anna Kavan.



My doctoral dissertation explores experimental and semi-autobiographical novels of the 1930s and ’40s written by Jean Rhys, Elizabeth Bowen, Stevie Smith, and Anna Kavan with a focus on language, narrative self-reflexivity, and the subject’s ambivalence about her gender, national, and cultural identity.

Literary Luminaries: Beards, Vaginas and the Avant-Garde Novelist – Part II

journalArticle, 10/09/2014

Part II: ReadWomen IN THE FIRST PART of this essay on Monday, I took a look at the way in which cult female novelists are usually forgotten or ignored, whilst male cult authors, from Burroughs to Hunter S. Thompson, remain literary icons that are cherished by the public imagination. The same issue lies with women who are writing Big Books on a large canvas.

Anna Kavan and the Politics of Madness


Author Anna Kavan’s critical and popular reception since her death in 1968 has been defined by a cult of personality fuelled by revelations about her psychiatric breakdown, heroin use and adoption of her own fictional character’s name. Victoria Walker unravels some of the accumulated mythology around this writer, and examines her complex association with, and interest in, early twentieth-century psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Two Halves: Unica Zürn. Affinities, Women Artists & Hybrid Forms.

magazineArticle, 12/02/2013

It Is Almost That: A Collection of Image+Text Work by Women Artists & Writers includes twenty-six works that do not fit neatly in any category and thus, because they are unwieldy, uncontainable, and inimitable are often relegated to the margins, or known by one world but not another. One of my ambitions in editing this book (read the complete editor’s afterword here) was to make space for those artists and writers who have been under-recognized or slotted into a category that doesn’t allow for a full reading of their work.

Compose Yourself!

blogPost, 28/12/2014

After yet another review in the New York Times Book Review about some book about Scott Fitzgerald, I felt it was time to write something about Kate Zambreno’s book Heroines. I taught some of it this semester past and made at least a couple of Zambreno converts. Zambreno’s Heroines ...

Sisters of the Extreme: Women Writing on the Drug Experience: Charlotte Brontë, Louisa May Alcott, Anaïs Nin, Maya Angelou, Billie Holiday, Nina Hagen, Diane Di Prima, Carrie Fisher, and Many Others

book, 2000-05-01

• An anthology of writings by some of the most influential women in history on the often misunderstood and misrepresented female drug experience.• With great honesty, bravery, and frankness, women from diverse backgrounds write about their drug experiences.Women have been experimenting with drugs since prehistoric times, and yet published accounts of their views on the drug experience have been relegated to either antiseptic sociological studies or sensationalized stories splashed across the tabloids. The media has given us an enduring, but inaccurate, stereotype of a female drug user: passive, addicted, exploited, degraded, promiscuous. But the selections in this anthology--penned by such famous names as Billie Holiday, Anais Nin, Maya Angelou, and Carrie Fisher--show us that the real experiences of women are anything but stereotypical. Sisters of the Extreme provides us with writings by women from diverse occupations and backgrounds, from prostitute to physician, who through their use of drugs dared cross the boundaries set by society--often doing so with the hope of expanding themselves and their vision of the world. Whether with LSD, peyote, cocaine, heroine, MDMA, or marijuana, these women have sought to reach, through their experimentation, other levels of consciousness. Sometimes their quests have brought unexpected rewards, other times great suffering and misfortune. But wherever their trips have left them, these women have lived courageously--if sometimes dangerously--and written about their journeys eloquently.

The Novel of the Future

book, 1968

In The Novel of the Future, Anaïs Nin explores the act of creation—in literature, film, art, and dance—to arrive at a new synthesis for the young artist struggling against the sterility, formlessness, and spiritual bankruptcy afflicting much of modern fiction.

La Littérature onirique contemporaine : fragments d’autofictions ?

journalArticle, 2001

« La Littérature onirique contemporaine : fragments d’autofictions ? (Michel Leiris, Marguerite Yourcenar, Elsa Morante, Anna Kavan, Unica Zürn et Georges Perec) », in Les Romans du Je, textes réunis par Ph. Forest et Cl. Gaugain, Nantes, Editions Pleins Feux, 2001, p. 343-365.

Psyché et le scret de Perséphone - Prose en métamorphose, mémoire et création - Katherine Mansfield, Catherine Pozzi, Anna Kavan, Djuna Barnes

book, 2004

L'auteur étudie dans cet ouvrage à travers quatre écrivains et poètes, Katherine Mansfield, Catherine Pozzi, Anna Kavan et Djuna Barnes les qualités de leur prose poétique dont elle montre comme elle se fonde sur réminiscence et imagination et échappe à toute forme de fixité. Le récit établit un lien au monde et à autrui en sa propre dimension temporelle, recréation, au présent, de l'unité de l'être, le sentiment parvenant, de façon semblable à ce que décrit Spinoza, à la conscience claire.

Attentive Writers’: Healthcare, Authorship, and Authority. Conference Review by Jac Saorsa - Centre for Medical Humanities

webpage, 30/08/2013

After a brief and to the point conference opening address the first parallel panels began and I listened as Geraldine Perriam spoke about Gender, Medical Authority and Location in Fiction by Women. Her talk focused primarily on two texts, Asylum Piece by Anna Kavan, and The Pumpkin Eaters by Penelope Mortimer, wherein a woman with mental health problems, despite in each case being the central character in the narrative, was caught up in a ‘network of practices’ where her choices were made for her by doctors and male relatives.

Feminist SFF & Utopia: A Brief History of Feminist SF/F and Women in SF/F


Experimental and semi-autobiographical novels of the 1930s and ’40s written by Jean Rhys, Elizabeth Bowen, Stevie Smith, and Anna Kavan

thesis, in progress

My doctoral dissertation explores experimental and semi-autobiographical novels of the 1930s and ’40s written by Jean Rhys, Elizabeth Bowen, Stevie Smith, and Anna Kavan with a focus on language, narrative self-reflexivity, and the subject’s ambivalence about her gender, national, and cultural identity.


book, 2012

If you thought you knew a lot about the ‘wives’ of modernism and the various forms of silencing they suffered, Kate Zambreno’s Heroines will teach you more; if you didn’t know much, your mouth will fall open in enraged amazement.

A Writers's Writer : Anna Kavan (1901-1968)


Beyond The Lighthouse. English Women Novelists In The Twentieth Century


Are novels by women 'different' from those written by men? If so, how? Do women writers possess a sense of humour? And why have so many of their novels been over- or under-rated? These are some of the questions raised in this stimulating book, which considers the work of some sixty British and Commonwealth women novelists of the twentieth century. Margaret Crosland's enthusiasm for her subject will encourage readers, both women and men, to study the modern classics which they had always meant to read, or re-read those they read too long ago. The author considers some pioneers, such as May Sinclair, and experimenters of different types: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, Anna Kavan, Ann Quin; humorists whose humour is often `black': Rose Macaulay, Muriel Spark, Barbara Pym, Beryl Bainbridge, Fay Weldon, Ivy Compton-Burnett;

Literary Luminaries: Gender and the Avant-Garde Novelist – Part I | The Weeklings

journalArticle, 08/09/2014

"WHY DON’T YOU have a beard?” This was a question that a London taxi driver once posited to me. I’d just told him I was a novelist, and he eyed me with great suspicion, questioned my lack of facial hair and then concluded, with authority, “A Proper Author ought to be old, and look jaded, and have a beard.” I pointed out that Jane Austen and George Eliot had managed to pen fine prose despite having hair on their cunts rather than their chins; he merely looked confused.

In Her Blood by Annie Hauxwell

book, 26/04/2012

Apparently, the character of Berlin was inspired by Anna Kavan who wrote for many years while addicted to heroin- which makes for an interesting premise for the story in itself.

Anna Kavan: a critical introduction

thesis, 1988

What's the Story: Reading Anna Kavan's Ice


Anna Kavan's Ice is a novel of relentless, evanescent beauty that depicts a world in which two explicitly linked forms of violence dominate and inexorably and insanely destroy it. First published in 1967, on the eve of the second wave of feminism, Ice has never been regarded as a significant work of proto-feminist literature, although scholars occasionally include it on lists of sf by women written before the major works of feminist sf burst onto the scene in the 1970s.

Ornithology and Ontology: The Existential Birdcall in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and Anna Kavan's Who Are You?

journalArticle, 23 Nov 2012

This essay explores textual parallels between Anna Kavan's novel Who Are You? (1963) and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). Paying close attention to the interrogative birdcall that haunts both texts, it examines how (post-)colonial situations and the experiences of namelessness and marital sexual violence lead Rhys's and Kavan's protagonists to doubts about their identity and existence.

Le féminisme des années 1970 dans l'édition et la littérature