Lessing Wins Nobel Prize; Cornell Press Book Examines National Identity in Her Work

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The 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to British novelist Doris Lessing, whom the Swedish Academy praised as an “epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny”. Born in 1919 to English parents living in Iran, she was raised in the former British colony of Southern Rhodesia, Lessing migrated to England in the 1930s. Her books include The Grass Is Singing (1950), the Children of Violence series (1952-1969), The Golden Notebook (1962), Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971), The Good Terrorist (1985) and The Fifth Child (1988).

In her 1998 Cornell University Press book, From the Margins of Empire: Christina Stead, Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, Louise Yelin explores Lessing’s fiction from the perspective of her colonial African childhood and position as a white woman in postcolonial Britain, highlighting the invented, hybrid nature of national identity that appears throughout her work. In the 2001 Yearbook of English Studies, Stephen Cowden lauded this comparative study of the three women writers working at the edge of the British Empire as a “complex account of the relationship between issues of gender, national identity, and political affiliation,” while Betsy Draine, writing in Contemporary Literature, declared that “Yelin’s study presents the novels provocatively, insightfully, and with a perfectly balanced appreciation of text and context. . . . Her uncovering . . . testifies to the imaginative power of writers with a will to write a different story.”

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