Book Review

Spencer, Jane. Aphra Behn’s Afterlife. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Reviewed by Vanessa Coloura | March 23, 2003

Jane Spencer’s book Aphra Behn’s Afterlife (2000) examines the reception of her work from the time of her death in 1689 to 1800. It approaches the construction of literary authority and the literary canon during the eighteenth century through the early history of Behn commentary and criticism. While many works on Behn attempt to make biographies out of the fragmented facts known about the successful Restoration writer, Spencer is concerned with the discourse that circulated about her after her death. Her historically grounded work calls attention to the tensions between commercial success and literary status in looking at Behn’s reputation. Spenser divides her book into three parts: Reputation, Influences, and Receptions. It offers a well-organized and through view of the processes, not only Behn, but “women writers were placed in – or excluded from – in the formation of literary histories and the ways in which considerations of gender enter into the formation of literary canons.”

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