Mary Ellmann

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Mary Ellmann (1921–89) was an American writer and literary critic. Magazines she reviewed for included the New York Review of Books, The Nation, Encounter, The Atlantic Monthly, Commentary, The New Republic, The New Statesman and The American Scholar.

Ellmann is particularly noted for her book of essays, Thinking About Women (1968),[1] which discusses the evolution of the representation of femininity in British and American literature, exhibiting sexual analogies and stereotypes from the texts and contrasting criticism by male and female authors.[2] The literary historian Mary Eagleton cited Ellmann's book as one of two "significant texts" in early feminist theory.[3] The work has been widely cited for its introduction of the concept "phallic criticism" as applied to writers of both sexes.[4] In a review of academic studies of gender, Mary Poovey described Thinking About Women as an example of the "earliest U.S. incarnation" of feminist literary criticism, which, "with the excitement of pioneers discovering virgin territory... helped make writing about women academically acceptable."[5]

Ellmann married the literary critic Richard Ellmann in 1949. The couple had three children, Stephen, Maud, and Lucy.[2]


  1. ^ Ellmann, Mary. Thinking about women. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. 1968.
  2. ^ a b Obituary (1989).
  3. ^ Eagleton (1996).
  4. ^ Robinson (1983).
  5. ^ Poovey (1991), p. 415.


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