Archives de Tag: feminism in literature

The Critical Tradition, Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends – Daniel H. Richter

I read excerpts. Two essays by Virginia Woolf and a third by Helene Cisoux, all were written to regard feminism in literature.

The two essays by Virginia Woolf involved female acceptance, as I see it. Though seclusion being a better characterization of her intent, since it seemed as if she felt female seclusion something which society hasn’t the will to inspire. The idea of seclusion as not simply a space (room), which offers a writer (in my case a reader) peace and quiet in order to achieve peace of mind (peace of thought for a writer, in this case, Virginia Woolf). These two essays from « A Room of One’s Own » were collaboratively, as collected in this work, a psychology of writers and writing with a very slim idea of feminity being different in that acceptance is moot, and that the reason points to masculinity as being impressed upon language within literature, and so what society accepts as influential, is masculine.

The first I read was on the romance of writing, on Austen-Bronte-Eliot, and she depreciates this style of writing and sometimes these their works, since, as she claims, it would have been and would still be better accepted by a larger community should they have been men and should the styles have been masculine. She points to sarcastic dismissal of some of this work. She suggests that where men write in tones which are naturally accepted, with « a natural prose, swift but slovenly, » and since these tones were « unsuited for a woman’s use » at that time, that the art must have suffered with the « inadequacy » of language acceptable for a woman’s use. She infers women’s values and interests are less-often conveyed with concern in literature and that doubtless women are suffering in life due to this fact of the era.

It seemed to me as though she sat down to write this with intention, and that the intention was to answer this problem of gender dissatisfaction in literature, for herself. She claims that this particular age discouraged worldliness, and that without vast experience, writers are stunted. « If Jane Austen suffered in any way from her circumstances it was in the narrowness of life that was imposed upon her, » (p. 603), and, « … women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties… they suffer from too rigid a restraint. »

One question she suggests is the question of poetic outlet, why do women write novels?

She is arrogant regarding prose, (p. 606), she regards poetry as a need, « For it is the poetry that is still denied outlet. » She proclaims poetry as suitable for the novel, the play, the written word in any length. Sentences are structural is her declaration, and any sentence, of itself, is unfinished. They (sentences) expound.

The second essay entitled « Shakespeare’s Sister » involved a tirade of expectation and non-equivalency. She impunes parental heir-oriented indulgence, as she embellishes with ingratitude the idea of Shakespearean genius as being gender-specific, unidentified, and common enough that the possibility exists for at least one female to have exhibited such quirks as should exist for genius to thrive. For, (p. 599), « if a woman in Shakespeare’s day had Shakespeare’s genius…, » she would have no chance for recognition, « … she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning … ». Then, she lists potential for such genius as possibly existing outside of a class of recognition and that surely some of these could have been women (p. 600), « Yet genius of a sort must have existed among women as it must have existed among the working classes. » She continues, « … any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed… For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered … that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty. » It is satire, but tired. Clearly not much would have changed since the sixteenth century, except that feminism now flourishes. Meanwhile, if conditions existed or could have existed in Shakespeare’s time for another of Shakespeare’s exception to thrive, it was then unacceptable (possibly unhealthy) to exhibit a drive or ambition outside of position. True enough. She rambles. This is not that day, there is only one Shakespeare, and he had gender. Virginia Woolf can be cynical. Virginia Woolf can be destructive.

I found that I enjoy philosophy (not as much as I enjoy Shakespeare), and it is good to have an opinion.

The third essay by Helene Cisoux is called « The Laugh of the Medusa. » It is written with passion, a passion of responsiblity.

In this essay, she separates the idea of gender and sex; and she further rants since not all are faltering should they be reduced to sex (not gender). She believes the body is being ignored in writing, and in speaking, and that women are not cognizant of their ‘selves’ enough to enable the speech and the literacy of their individual ‘selves’. She prefers to require that sex be a trap, (p. 1647), « … this job of analysis and illumination, this emancipation of the marvelous text of her self that she must urgently learn to speak. »

My concern is not with the feminine, my fear is with the ‘ism’. Is femininity an ‘ism’? Is writing a classification, or is gender an order? Since we’re speaking in the philosophical, scientific, bio-analytical (the anatomy of ability), gender then is responsibility for ownership of self, and writing is activity.

This seems both alarming, and mundane. Alarming in that feminity is questionably non-existent in feminism, as feminism is abrasive. And then to think that writing is mere, merely an act, of no more impetus than brushing one’s hair shatters this reader’s equilibrium.

Cisoux writes feminism (literary civil liberties as denoted by gender) as gender narcissum, (p. 1650/1651), « Women must write through their bodies…, women are body. More body, hence more writing. » She believes women should be present for themselves, and be active in their delivery of the language (verbal or written) which they use to introduce what other’s should see in them. She believes women need a voice, and it needs to be their own.

This is psychology of writers and writing. I wonder what philosophy has been written regarding the psychology of literacy. What do people understand when they read? Why do people understand the way they do?


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