news-category: Women's History Month

Gardner-Webb English Professors Share Their List of Influential Women Authors

Women's history month graphic

Drs. Shea Stuart, Janet Land and Cheryl Duffus Share Novels and their Impacts

By Isabella Brown, ’24, Intern for University Communications

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Women’s History Month celebrates and recognizes the achievements of women in a variety of fields across the United States and globally. Gardner-Webb University English Department highlights the intelligent women who have contributed to breaking down barriers through literature.

In recognition of the month, professors within the English department share the following list, which includes some of their most beloved and impactful novels written by women.

Favorite Women Authors

  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  • “Middlemarch” by George Eliot (Mary Anna Evans)
  • “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver
  • “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat
  • “The Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai
  • “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri

“I love so many novels by so many women writers,” voiced Dr. Shea Stuart, professor of English. However, one changed the trajectory of her career — “Pride and Prejudice.” Stuart first read the novel by Jane Austen in high school and explains that this classic work is the very reason why she’s an academic now. “I own at least six different versions of it, plus so many of the adaptations and retellings. I love the banter and the astute depiction of small-town people who have interacted with each other their entire lives,” Stuart shared.

“My favorite line is when Elizabeth gets a long letter from her aunt that promises to explain Everything, and the narrator tells us, ‘She sat down and prepared to be happy,’” she added. “I think of that line every time I sit down to read a good book or watch a great show.”

Dr. Janet Land, professor of English, read “Middlemarch” by George Eliot (Mary Anna Evans) for the first time during her first year of graduate school before she had declared a “specialty” or area of focus. She recalled, “The professor introduced Eliot as ‘probably the most intelligent writer of the period.’ Naturally, that comment caught my interest, and the novel and its multiple, interwoven themes intrigued me. Consequently, I decided to focus on Victorian Literature and completed my thesis on Eliot.”

Land continued, “’Prodigal Summer’ by Barbara Kingsolver is a strong favorite for three reasons. First, the setting is Appalachia — the source of my family’s roots in America. Next, biology, mountain ecology, and basic ecological concepts support the novel’s themes. Finally, two of the three primary characters are strong, intelligent, determined, women — welcome contrasts to the usual gender and cultural stereotypes.”

With so many wonderful novels written by women, Dr. Cheryl Duffus found it hard to pick just one and shared three of her favorites. “I would nominate Edwidge Danticat’s memoir ‘Brother, I’m Dying’ because it’s an inspiring story of family love, human resilience, and the need for compassion for immigrants,” she voiced.

Then, Duffus described her other choices. “Kiran Desai’s novel, ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ is about the lack of compassion and understanding for those different from ourselves and the problems this leads to, plus it’s a satire,” she explained. “Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’ is just so wonderfully well-written; you can’t put it down.”

Writer Isabella Brown is a senior English major.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

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