Academic

Susan Sellers studied in London and Paris, receiving a DEA from the Sorbonne and a PhD from the University of London. While in Paris she worked closely with leading French feminist writers, particularly Hélène Cixous. She is a Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Her research interests span modernist and contemporary women’s writing, as well as the processes of writing including writers’ drafts, notebooks and diaries. She co-edits the Cambridge edition of Virginia Woolf’s writing for Cambridge University Press.

Publications

Books

Myth and Fairy Tale in Contemporary Women’s Fiction (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001).

Woman as gorgon, woman as temptress: the classical and biblical mythology which has dominated Western thinking defines women in a variety of patriarchally encoded roles. This study addresses the surprising persistence of mythical influence in contemporary fiction. It traces how myths have been perceived and interpreted by such commentators as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Bruno Bettelheim, Roland Barthes, Jack Zipes and Marina Warner. This leads to an examination of the role that mythic narrative plays in social and self formation, drawing on the literary, feminist and psychoanalytic theories of Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous and Judith Butler to delineate the ways in which women’s mythos can transcend the limitations of logos and give rise to potent new models for individual and cultural regeneration.


Language and Sexual Difference (London: Macmillan, and New York: St Martin’s Press, 1991).

An accessible introduction to French feminist theory and French women’s writing. The book offers a context to this challenging, controversial body of work through discussion of philosophical, post-structural and psychoanalytic debates, presenting informed and lucid discussions of a range of French feminist writers including Marie Cardinal, Madeleine Chapsal, Chantal Chawaf, Andrée Chedid, Hélène Cixous, Catherine Clément, Michèle Le Doeuff, Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Xavière Gauthier, Benoîte Groult, Jeanne Hyvrard, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Annie Leclerc, Eugénie Lemoine-Luccioni, Michèle Montrelay, Michèle Perrein, Michèle Ramond, Marie Redonnet, Christiane Rochefort, Emma Santos, Nathalie Saurrate, Irène Schavelzon, Geneviève Serreau and Monique Wittig.


The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf, 2nd edn; editor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Virginia Woolf’s writing has generated passion and controversy for the best part of a century. Her novels – challenging, moving, and always deeply intelligent – remain as popular with readers as they are with students and academics. The highly successful Cambridge Companion has been fully revised to take account of new departures in scholarship since it first appeared. The second edition includes new chapters on race, nation and empire, sexuality, aesthetics, visual culture and the public sphere. The remaining chapters, as well as the guide to further reading, have all been fully updated. The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf remains the first port of call for students new to Woolf’s work, with its informative, readable style, chronology and authoritative information about secondary sources.

Virginia Woolf, The Waves, editor with M. Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

The Waves is one of the greatest achievements in modern literature. Commonly considered the most important, challenging and ravishingly poetic of Virginia Woolf’s novels, it was in her own estimation ‘the most complex and difficult of all my books’. This edition will be the most authoritative, most fully collated and annotated text available to scholars to date, and for considerable time to come. It maps the text of The Waves from the first British edition to all other editions published in Woolf’s lifetime, as well as to all extant proofs. The text is presented in clearly readable form, with page-by-page direction to emendation, variants, and notes. The substantial introduction includes a detailed account of the novel’s composition, publication and early critical reception. There are extensive explanatory notes on the text, a full chronology of composition and publication and a more general chronology covering Woolf’s life and works.

A History of Feminist Literary Criticism, editor with G. Plain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Feminism has transformed the academic study of literature, fundamentally altering the canon of what is taught and setting new agendas for literary analysis. In this authoritative history of feminist literary criticism, leading scholars chart the development of the practice from the Middle Ages to the present. The first section of the book explores protofeminist thought from the Middle Ages onwards, and analyses the work of pioneers such as Wollstonecraft and Woolf. The second section examines the rise of second-wave feminism and maps its interventions across the twentieth century. A final section examines the impact of postmodernism on feminist thought and practice. This book offers a comprehensive guide to the history and development of feminist literary criticism and a lively reassessment of the main issues and authors in the field. It is essential reading for all students and scholars of feminist writing and literary criticism.


Hélène Cixous: Authorship, Autobiography and Love (Cambridge: Polity and Blackwell, 1996).

This book is a clear and accessible introduction to the writings of Helene Cixous, novelist, dramatist and critic, whose work has had a major impact on feminist theory and practice. Susan Sellers, a major scholar on Cixous, provides a lucid account of Cixous’s theoretical position, and in particular her distinctive theory of an ‘écriture féminine’. She discusses the development of Cixous’s literary oeuvre in the context of this theory, and analyses a selection of the works in detail to illustrate the different stages in Cixous’s writing career. Focusing on the key novels and plays, Sellers explores a range of issues and themes central to her work; the correlation between the death of Cixous’s own father and her ‘coming-into-being’ as a writer; the psychological process of separation and individuation and the creation of a female authorial self; the discovery of the other and the dramatization of love; the delineation/depiction of an alternative form of relationship between self and other which would have a significance in a wider sphere than that of the merely personal.


The Hélène Cixous Reader, editor and translator (New York: Routledge, 1994).

This is the first truly representative collection of texts by Helene Cixous. The substantial pieces range broadly across her entire oeuvre, and include essays, works of fiction, lectures and drama. Arranged helpfully in chronological order, the extracts span twenty years of intellectual thought and demonstrate clearly the development of one of the most creative and brilliant minds of the twentieth century.
With a foreword by Jacques Derrida, a preface by Cixous herself, and first-class editorial material by Susan Sellers, The Helene Cixous Reader is destined to become a key text of feminist writing.


The Writing Notebooks of Hélène Cixous, editor and translator (New York: Continuum, 2004).

Helene Cixous is among the most influential and original literary critics and feminist thinkers of our time. This volume reproduces – for the first time, in any language – a collection of pages from her original writing notebooks, offering a unique insight into her radical thought and work. The material gathered here ranges across the full spectrum of Cixous’ writing, including the concept of écriture feminine, and the starting points and sources of inspiration for her poetry and prose. The editor’s introduction succinctly outlines the central tenets of Cixous’ theory of writing. Each extract is accompanied by editorial commentary and a translation, both by Susan Sellers. The book concludes with an interview with Cixous herself, in which she discusses the writing process, her own criticism, fiction and poetry and the value and importance of these notebooks. Students and teachers of literature, psychoanalysis, philosophy and feminist theory will find this an illuminating and inspiring collection of writings.


White Ink: Interviews on Sex, Text and Politics – Hélène Cixous; editor (Stocksfield: Acumen, 2008).

These interviews with Hélène Cixous offer invaluable insight into her philosophy and criticism. Culled from newspapers, journals, and books, White Ink collects the best of these conversations, which address the major concerns of Cixous’s critical work and features two dialogues with twentieth-century intellectuals Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. The interviews in White Ink span more than three decades and include a new conversation with Susan Sellers, the book’s editor and a leading Cixous scholar and translator. Cixous discusses her work and writing process. She shares her views on literature, feminism, theater, autobiography, philosophy, politics, aesthetics, religion, ethics, and human relations, and she reflects on her roles as poet, playwright, professor, woman, Jew, and, her most famous, “French feminist theorist.” Sellers organizes White Ink in such a way that readers can grasp the development of Cixous’s commentary on a series of vital questions. Taken together, the revealing performances in White Ink provide an excellent introduction this thinker’s brave and vital work—each one an event in language and thought that epitomizes Cixous’s intellectual and poetic force.


Feminist Criticism: Theory and Practice, editor (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, and University of Toronto Press, 1991).

This is a collection of readings which relates feminist “theory” directly to critical practice, illustrating the different feminist critical positions which are available. It sets out to answer the question, “What critical strategies and perspectives, and what aspects of contemporary theory and criticism have proved valuable to British feminist critics in their reading, appreciation and interpretation of written texts?” Contributors include Isobel Armstrong, Penny Boumelha, Claire Buck, Elaine Hobby, Paulina Palmer, Lynne Pearce and Janet Todd.


Writing Differences, editor (Milton Keynes: The Open University Press, and New York: St Martin’s Press, 1988).

Writing Differences is a collection of readings from the members of Hélène Cixous’ research seminar at the Centre d’Etudes Féminines in Paris. They have been commissioned to illustrate the Centre’s pioneering work on sexual difference and its relationship to the literary text. The readings cover a multi-national range of literatures, and a variety of literary periods and genres. Questions of sexual and gender difference are posed and answered in the context of post-structuralist, contemporary philosophical and psychoanalytic debate. The ‘Conversations’ with Hélène Cixous are a unique feature of this book in which she details her theory of sexual difference, her approach to the text as ‘other’, the nature of ‘écriture féminine’, her own aims as a writer, and her philosophy of life.


Delighting the Heart (London: The Women’s Press, 1989) reissued 1994.

Seventeen women – poets, playwrights and novelists – talk with candour and warmth about how they began to write, how they approach a new piece of work and how they then develop it. From first idea to publication of a finished piece, they offer examples from their own work that affords an invaluable insight into the difficulties and the joys of writing. A fascinating and inspiring book, valuable to scholars and critics, to other writers, and readers interested in the craft – and the struggle – behind the finished work.


Taking Reality by Surprise, editor (London: The Women’s Press, 1991).

For accomplished and aspiring writers alike, Taking Reality by Surprise offers little short of your own private creative writing course. Over fifty novelists, journalists, poets, editors, literary agents and writing-tutors offer advice, practical exercises and encouragement to help you through all stages of producing and publishing a piece of writing.


Instead of Full Stops, editor (London: The Women’s Press, 1996)

Over fifty per cent of all books currently published are non-fiction. Yet despite its popularity amongst readers and publishers, there are almost no guidelines available about how to develop as a non-fiction writer. Drawing on the wide-ranging experience of researchers, writers, editors and publishers, here at last is a comprehensive, inspiring, accessible and invaluable guide to writing and publishing non-fiction.


The Semi-Transparent Envelope: Feminism and Fiction, with N. Ward Jouve and S. Roe (London: Marion Boyars, 1994).

Virginia Woolf asserted, against the constructs of traditional realist fiction, that a novel is not a copy of life but an original – something much more permeable and flexible. With this as inspiration, three women writers ask the questions: do women contsruct and write fiction differently from men? Do they have a different relationship with their art in terms fo desire and pleasure, and is that pleasure gender specific? What, if any are the constraints put upon women writers by existing literary expectations and theories, including feminism? Can they cross the sexual divide and write about men? In The Semi-Transparent Envelope three acclaimed literary critics examine these and other issues not only as theoretical aspects of the feminist agenda but within the evolution of their own work of fiction.


Live Theory, with I. Blyth (New York and London: Continuum, 2004).

Helene Cixous: Live Theory provides a clear and informative introduction to one of the most important and influential European writers working today. The book opens with an overview of the key features of Cixous’s theory of ecriture feminine (feminine writing). The various manifestations of ecriture feminine are then explored in chapters on Cixous’s fictional and theatrical writing, her philosophical essays, and her intensely personal approach to literary criticism. The book concludes with a new, lively and wide-ranging interview with Helene Cixous in which she discusses her influences and inspirations, and her thoughts on the nature of writing and the need for an ethical relationship with the world. Also offering a survey of the many English translations of Cixous’s work, this book is an indispensable introduction to her work for students of Literature, Philosophy, Cultural and Gender Studies.


Recent chapters and articles

‘Postmodernism and the Biographical Novel’, in Conversations with Biographical Novelists: Truthful Fictions Across the Globeedited by Michael Lackey, (London and New York: Bloombsury Academic, 2019).

‘Virginia Woolf: Writing and the Ordinary Mind’, in Thinking Through Style:  Non-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century, Michael D. Hurley and Marcus  Waithe (eds). (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Afterword to Virginia Woolf’s OrlandoMacmillan Collector’s Library, (Basingstoke: Pan Macmillan, 2017).

‘About Vanessa and Virginia‘, in Biographical Fiction: A Reader, edited by Michael Lackey, (London and New York: Bloombsury Academic, 2017).

Woolf and the Essay, The Eighteenth Annual Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture, published by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, 2017.

‘Virginia Woolf’, Fifty-One Key Feminist Thinkers, edited by Lori J. Marso  (London and New York: Routledge, 2016).


Translations

Susan has also done translations of the work of Hélène Cixous, most notably La Chambre de Vera (Black Dog, 2006), Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, with Sarah Cornell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993) and Coming to Writing’ and Other Essays, with Sarah Cornell, Deborah Jenson and Ann Liddle (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).