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5 Most-Read Jewish Women Authors on Campus

If you grappled with Gertrude Stein’s circular, free- flowing, language in college — “If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon” – it turns out you’re not alone.

In a recent analysis by TIME of the women authors most frequently read on college campuses, Stein showed up alongside some other familiar Jewish names.

The analysis, based on 1.1 million syllabi available through the Open Syllabus Project – around 70% from U.S. institutions, the rest from the U.K., Canada, and Australia –contained some surprises. The author who showed up most frequently, for instance, was not Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, or a Brontë; it was Kate L. Turabian, author of “A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.”

The Jewish women who made the list included Susan Sontag (#18), Hannah Arendt (#20), Judith Butler (#28), Betty Friedan (#33) and Stein (#37).

Occupants of the list as a whole are split almost evenly between those writing in creative genres and those writing theoretical texts, analytical texts, and textbooks. Interestingly, of the five top-ranked Jewish writers all but Stein are represented primarily for their work as theorists. Their fields are diverse; Sontag wrote primarily artistic and social theory, Arendt political theory, Butler and Friedan feminist theory.

Dishearteningly, the survey also revealed the extent to which women authors are underrepresented in college classrooms. Turabian comes in 17th on the list of most-read authors, after sixteen men including Shakespeare and Freud, and the rest of the most-read women are interspersed among 718 men on the general list of most-read authors.

Perhaps a look back at Butler and Friedan could do college professors and administrators some good.

Contact Talya Zax at or on Twitter, @TalyaZax.




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