The theme of this talk by acclaimed essayist and literary scholar Terry Castle is the Not-A-Woman. Castle uses the term for a person who looks and functions as a woman only in a nominal sense, having lost, refused, or neglected to cultivate standard markers of the “feminine.” Her examples include a number of enigmatic and exceptionally powerful figures: Eleanor Roosevelt, Gertrude Stein, Greta Garbo, Margaret Thatcher, and Hillary Clinton.
Terry Castle is Walter A. Hass Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at Stanford University. She is a scholar of the history of the early English novel, with an emphasis on the works of Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, and Austen. Much of her scholarship has focused on women and on gay and lesbian writing, but her scholarship also shows a remarkable breadth of interests and expertise. She has published on such diverse topics as the Gothic novel, the First World War, and autobiography.
She has written seven books, including The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture and The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny, which was a finalist for the PEN Spielvogel-Diamondstein Award. Her most recent book, The Professor and Other Writings, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
She also edited the well-known anthology The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall, which in 2003 received the Lambda Literary Editor's Choice Award and was named one of the year's ten best books by The Advocate.
Castle is a well known essayist, whose criticism and essays have been published widely in The Atlantic, The London Review of Books, The New Republic, The Times Literary supplement, among others. Susan Sontag once described her as "the most expressive, most enlightening literary critic at large today." Her collection of essays, Boss Ladies, Watch Out! is an extended meditation on what it means to be a woman in the male-dominated field of criticism. It explores the (scandalous and fraught) history of female criticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and showcases Castle's own work as a female critic in a number of essays on various great women writers, from Sappho to Gertrude Stein and beyond.
She is also a visual artist who works in photography, mixed media, and collage, and she is a collector of vernacular photography, postcards, and tintypes. She received her PhD from the University of Minnesota and has been teaching at Stanford since 1983.