Rethinking Women's Collaborative Writing: Power, Difference, Property


205 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-3623-6
DDC 809'.89287




Reviewed by Carol A. Stos

Carol A. Stos is an assistant professor of Spanish Studies at Laurentian


Lorraine York’s study of collaborative writing is a thoughtful
contribution to this type of literature. Contrary to the particularly
North American feminist line of maternalist thinking, which tends to
idealize women’s collaboration as an extension of their nurturing
other-directedness, she explores the differences and disagreements that
strengthen these relationships and examines the issue of the property
ethic (anxieties within the creative act and in the criticism) and
reader response to these collaborative texts. Her theoretical approach
“stresses the multiplicity of meanings that may attach themselves to
collaboration,” and in so doing also considers the evidence of
numerous, often contradictory, ideological positionings.

Although her focus is on contemporary women’s collaborative prose,
poetry, and drama, York grounds her study in a brief history of
collaborative writing, with particular emphasis on the 19th century. She
examines the tensions and dynamics of collaborative theory and criticism
in the work of Gilbert and Gubar, Cixous and Clément, and Kaplan and
Rose, among others, concluding, unsurprisingly, that certainly in North
America collaborative authorship is not easily accorded scholarly
respect. York argues that collaborative writing embodies a wide range of
cultural discourses and social exchange and she sees that many of the
same issues of privacy and publicity, property and space that colored
the “closeted anxiety” of 19th-century collaborators are persistent,
evolving factors in the “full disclosure” of 20th-century pairs. She
studies these elements in the prose, poetry, and drama of Carol Shields
and Blanche Howard, Lee Maracle and Ayanna Black, and Maria Campbell and
Linda Griffiths. In each discipline, the power exchanges and the balance
between artistic temperaments, individual reputations, and cultural
differences inform the dynamic discourse that seeks to make one art by
two creators. York’s epilogue, a brief musing about collaborative
writing (and her own experience with it) in a university setting,
exemplifies the subtleties of the influence of power and reminds us of
the continuing difficulties collaborative research and writing face in
the humanities. This book should be required reading for all tenure and
promotion committees.


York, Lorraine., “Rethinking Women's Collaborative Writing: Power, Difference, Property,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,