Women Writers and Culture
"Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size.” – Virginia Woolf, a Room of One’s Own (1929)Is it possible that virtually excluding women writers from literature over the course of years has hurt the art form as a whole? How does cultural interpretation of gender impinge or facilitate literary production? Put more simply, imagine all the adventures men have participated over the centuries, for example. Think about all the great philosophy, language, science and literature that has been a direct result of their endeavors. How has our cultural framework been expanded by something like this? How has it been diminished by relegating women to what 19th century English writer Virginia Woolf characterized as the “restrictive domestic sphere.” Further, how does perpetuating the cultural ideal that women should, not only resign themselves to secondary status of this kind, but embrace it, as well? If they do not, they are someone remiss in their gender or societal duties. Woolf suggested that women find their voices by developing new language. Women writers in history have been habitually excluded from the literary culture consciousness. With little or no access to education, for example, they have had no way develop a manner of writing or language all their own. They have also been dissuaded by a powerful mass male majority to remain silent, as well. She called it finding the “women’s sentence.” By taking elements from male-centered language and patterns of knowing (she that is all women have to choose from, essentially) and incorporating themselves into it, Woolf said they can develop a new canon that will ultimately set them free.
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