Orlando: Women's Writing

Scholarly Introduction

Literary History—With a Difference

Inclusion and Selection

The first release of Orlando included entries on more than a thousand writers. This number continues to increase with semi-annual updates to the textbase. Of the first thousand writers, more than 850 are classed (not necessarily exclusively, as already noted) as 'British women writers'. The writers represented in Orlando stretch back to Sappho (whose literary afterlife for other women writers dates from the seventeenth century) and forward into the present generation of living writers. Those who are the subject of entries range from the highly visible to the much less well known. Along with writers in the more self-consciously literary genres of poetry, fiction, and drama, Orlando includes women known as writers of science, household advice, or popular genres, and those known (if at all) mostly for non-literary reasons who also left significant writing. Important male writers, too, have entries, since women's writing can only be understood in relation to the broader range of textuality, and so, for the same reason, do some women writers not closely connected to the British Isles.
Entry length is governed by a range of factors. The first is the historical importance, as we see it, of the writer. When substantial biographical and critical material is readily accessible, the Orlando entry will be highly selective in its treatment. Entries are necessarily shorter on writers on whom there is little source material, and since the subject of this work is writing in the British Isles, we have provided more selective entries on international women and men. In these cases the significance of the subject to the overall history may emerge largely from their occurrence in entries on other writers in the textbase. Some male writers (including some of those most pervasively present in the textbase) are treated through timeline materials and a brief Life entry, rather than the full slate of screens. A number of writers without their own entries, are represented by timeline material and links to others' entries.
Outside the author entries, much other writing is represented in the form of shorter or longer chronology items. The chronological material also covers publishing and book-trade issues, general social, cultural, and political history, and every kind of development felt to be inextricable from the study of women's experience and women's writing. Any expectation of redrawing the profile of history to play down such 'masculine'events as battles, treaties, etc. was deflected by the fact that a good deal of writing by women addresses these very topics. Inclusion of material about the introduction of household appliances, driving licences, or three-coloured traffic lights justified itself by their bearing on daily life. The availability in the search Scope options of periodization hitherto in use among literary scholars, along with the even more conventional marker of monarchs' reigns, allows for quick and easy date selection while still allowing readers to choose for themselves the dates searched on. Various doubtless controversial criteria have been employed in settling on beginning and end dates of the various periods given. These can often be inferred by running an unrestricted chronology search on the period and examining the beginning and end dates.