Welcome to the website for the Doris Lessing Society! Here you can find resources for studying and enjoying the writings of one of the 20th century's great authors, including a bibliography of recent literary criticism, information about past conferences and panel presentations, and reading guides on selected works for book clubs and independent readers. Also listed here are current Society members and their scholarly interests. If you would like to join, or if you have a question, don't hesitate to click "Contact," above. -- Cornelius Collins, President, Doris Lessing Society

Latest

Jenny Diski’s memoirs of life with Doris Lessing

The current issue of the New York Review of Books features a lengthy review, by Hermione Lee, of Jenny Diski’s memoir, In Gratitude, which was published earlier in 2016. Diski died of cancer this spring, just days after the book saw publication in the UK.

96548932-xlarge_transqvzuuqpflyliwib6ntmjwfsvwez_ven7c6bhu2jjnt8Much of the memoir focuses on Diski’s complex relationship with Doris Lessing. After breaking with her parents, Diski lived several years in Lessing’s care, in the author’s London home during the 1960s. Diski went on to a successful writing career from the 1980s forward. On receiving her cancer diagnosis in 2014, Diski began in the London Review of Books a series of essays that in large part explored her memories of Lessing. Published as In Gratitude, the collection is the most substantial literary reflection on Doris Lessing to appear since her death in 2013.

 

For those interested in the reception of Diski’s book — particularly its perspective on Lessing — below are links to a range of notices and reviews, in reverse chronological order. Feel free to submit reviews you think should be listed here by contacting us.

Hermione Lee, “The Triumph of Jenny Diski,” New York Review of Books

Andrea DenHoed, “Jenny Diski’s Way of Seeing Beyond the Story,” New Yorker

Heidi Julavitis, “Jenny Diski’s In Gratitude,” New York Times

Martin Rubin, “Book Review: In Gratitude,” Washington Times

Anne Enright, “Writing against the clock,” Irish Times

Hester Abrams, “Review: In Gratitude,” Jewish Chronicle Online

Marion McLeod, “Book of the Week,” The Spinoff (New Zealand)

Jane Shilling, “Life with Doris: the lesser of two evils,” Daily Mail

Tim Adams, “On death … and Doris,” The Guardian

Writer Jenny Diski dies aged 68, BBC News

Jenny Diski interview by Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times (subscription required)

the Doris Lessing collection at the Harare City Library

post today on the London Review of Books blog discusses the Doris Lessing Special Collection at the Harare City Library in Harare, Zimbabwe. Lessing donated over 3,000 books from her personal collection to the library on her death in 2013. The collection opened to the public 3 months ago, as reported here.

Lessing reflected on her early education and spoke about the importance of access to literature, especially in postcolonial societies, in her 2007 Nobel lecture.

call for papers: Doris Lessing Studies, 2016

The editors of Doris Lessing Studies have issued their annual call for papers! This year’s edition will be a special, themed issue. Theme description and contact info below:

“Looking Backward, Looking Forward: Comparative Readings of Doris Lessing’s Historical and Speculative Fiction”

Building upon the Doris Lessing Society’s panel at MLA 2016, this special issue of Doris Lessing Studies seeks article submissions comparing Lessing’s historical-realist-autobiographical fiction to her speculative novels or stories. These two periods in Lessing’s career are often considered by critics as separate areas or phases, but we are interested in exploring ways to bridge that divide. We are interested in attempts to find continuities in Lessing’s career, to theorize the transition from one period to the other, or to articulate non-linear models for understanding her aesthetic trajectory in its long duration.

Submissions should be 12-18 double-spaced (12 point type) pages long, following MLA style. Endnotes must be indicated by superscript numbers manually added within the text and typed in at the end of the article. Submissions should be sent to co-editors Robin Visel and Mark Pedretti (email both rvisel@gmail.com and mark.pedretti@gmail.com with subject “DLS2016 Article Submission”) by May 15, 2016.

Calls for papers, MLA 2017

The Doris Lessing Society has posted its calls for papers for the 2017 MLA Convention in Philadelphia!

The topic of the Society’s guaranteed session is “Teaching Doris Lessing in the Twenty-First Century.” Given the changes in post-secondary education since Lessing’s canonization in the US academy with novels like The Golden Notebook, what do we teach when we teach Doris Lessing now, and how (and to whom) do we teach? This session may run in the roundtable format (briefer presentations, more discussion), depending on the number of qualified submissions. Deadline and contact details can be viewed here.

The topic of the special session the Society will propose is “Twentieth-Century Women Writers and the Formalist Turn.” This panel proposes to ask, how will the “formalist turn” in literary studies affect or shape the interpretation of, and new scholarly work on, twentieth-century women writers? Has it already? The “formalist turn” is a topic alluded to often in recent discussions of the state of the field, with the sense that a shift is occurring, taking literary study away from the historicist and contextualist styles of interpretation that have been dominant for the past several decades. The status of this turn, and whether it’s anything new, are naturally in question. Still, at this juncture it seems worth thinking about how such a turn might transform or shape the study of women writers in particular, in light of how notions of form and formalism have typically been gendered. Doris Lessing’s work, for example, is often criticized for a supposed lack of attention to formal concerns; this then is an occasion to wonder how she, like other women writers, will fare as (or if) the canon of modern writing is reshaped along formalist trajectories. Deadline and contact details can be viewed here.

The topic of a collaborative session the Society will propose with the Margaret Atwood Society is “Boundaries of Life: Ageism and Aging in Works by Margaret Atwood and Doris Lessing.” This session is inspired by the MLA’s 2017 Presidential Theme, “Boundary Conditions.” By focusing on ageism and aging in the works of Atwood and Lessing, two of the twentieth century’s most prolific and influential women writers, this panel aims to explore the ways these writers depict the passing of time in relation to life experiences and self-consciousness. Some questions papers might answer include: What does it mean to come of age? How do age and the aging process affect how we see ourselves? When and how does one become old? How does age discrimination shape societies and individuals? In addition to examining individual works, papers may also look at the authors’ careers more broadly and discuss how their treatment of aging as a theme has changed as they themselves aged. Deadline and contact details can be viewed here.

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