No women novelists in Romanian school books

In theory, post-communist Romania has embraced gender equality. But the fact that not a single book by a female writer is included in the school curriculum shows that, in reality, women's intellectual achievements are still undervalued.

Ana Maria Luca
Ana Maria Luca NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Source: Scena 9
No women novelists in Romanian school books - NewsMavens
Notebook. Burst.

Why this story matters:

After examining various school books and curricula, experts have established that a crucial part of the Romanian literary heritage is systematically excluded from teaching materials -- namely, the works of female writers.

In the 1990s, high school textbooks featured female authors, especially interwar novelists who first explored women’s perspective on society. They challenged gender stereotypes in a sexist and increasingly fascist Romania.

Thirty years later, even these novels are no longer acknowledged as landmarks of literature in Romanian schools.

The country’s education system has been in a state of continuous crisis since the fall of Communism, with various attempts at reform taking place over the past 29 years. But this is not an excuse to leave out female voices from textbooks, unless we want future generations to grow up believing that literature belongs to men only.

Details from the story:

  • While 30 years ago, textbooks for schools included at least one Romanian female novelist -- Hortensia Papadat Bengescu -- by 2017 she was no longer featured.
  • "The representation of women in literature textbooks has become, despite the 'reformist' climate we’re experiencing, even more problematic than during previous decades,” claims literary historian and critic, Bianca Burta Cernat.
  • In her book on "forgotten interwar women novelists", Cernat recalls 9 women who, despite the heavily sexist and increasingly fascist times, published no less than 20 volumes between 1919-1948. However, none of their works is studied in schools in 2018.
  • Some experts argue that an author's gender should not be relevant for school curricula -- only the quality of their work.
  • Romania's curricula are not only flawed from a gender perspective. Most Romanian school books (and some university courses) fail to include modern literature. They do not feature any texts written after the 1970s.
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