Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Greer, Germaine from Philip's Encyclopedia

Australian feminist writer. Her controversial book The Female Eunuch (1970) portrayed marriage as a legalized form of female slavery and questioned a number of gender-oriented stereotypes. Other works include Sex and Destiny: the Politics of Human Fertility (1984), The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause (1991), and The Whole Woman (1999). See also feminism

Summary Article: Greer, Germaine
From Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory

Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch is one of the earliest and most influential works in late twentieth-century feminism, a provocative blend of literary and cultural criticism, social commentary, historical assessment and political activism. Greer argues powerfully for change in women’s lives, for resistance to the “castration” of women, the deliberate suppression of women’s sexuality, physical strength, mental acuity, anger, independence, and “completeness.” In her 1980 introduction to the paperback edition, Greer claims that she wrote the book with the hope that her “disgust with the traditional feminine postures and procedures would be added to the spurs which were forcing women to rise up and smash the mold made for them.”

In 1980, Greer established the now defunct Center for the Study of Women’s Literature at the University of Tulsa and founded Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, the longest-running academic journal focusing exclusively on women’s writing. As the founding editor of TSWL, Greer reinforced the newly formed “gynocritical” approach in feminist literary criticism by calling for, publishing, and herself contributing original research on hitherto little known women writers. Her opening editorial essay for the new journal proclaimed, “If we can bring the face of one of our foremothers clearly out of the shadow we shall have made a [great] change.”

Though her loyalty to feminist literary excavation, an insistence on the primary importance of scholarly studies of women’s work, and a seeming lack of interest in current feminist theory (and jargon) have all provoked criticism, Greer continues to include canon reformation among her widespread feminist activities (which include hosting televised women’s talk shows in the U.K., making frequent radio presentations, and contributing regular columns to the English press). Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women’s Verse, edited by Greer and three of her American graduate students, made a significant contribution to the inclusion of women in the literary canon by publishing long-neglected poems with extensive commentary, supported by original research. Greer continues this work as the founder and general editor of Stump Cross Books, a small press dedicated to issuing scholarly editions of the work of early modern English women poets.

  • Greer, Germaine. The Change: Women, Aging and the Menopause. New York: Knopf, 1992.
  • Greer, Germaine. The Madwoman’s Underclothes: Essays and Occasional Writings. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1987.
  • Greer, Germaine. The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1979.
  • Greer, Germaine. Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility. New York: Harper and Row, 1984.
  • Greer, Germaine. Shakespeare. Past Masters Series. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  • Greer, Germaine, et al., eds. Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women’s Verse. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1989.
  • Jeslyn Medoff
    © 1996, 2009 Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace

    Related Articles

    Full text Article Greer, Germaine 1939 -
    The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English

    Australian feminist author and English professor who wrote the bestselling The Female Eunuch and other polemical works on women's...

    Full text Article Greer, Germaine (1939)
    The Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature

    Germaine Greer is one of the most influential writers of her generation. Her groundbreaking feminist work of 1971, The Female...

    Full text Article Greer, Germaine (1939)
    Bloomsbury Biographical Dictionary of Quotations

    Probably the only place where a man can feel really secure is in a maximum security prison, except for the imminent threat...

    See more from Credo