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Thread: Women Writers

  1. #1
    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    Women Writers

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/bo..._r=1&ref=books --- A JURY OF HER PEERS

    American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx

    By Elaine Showalter

    586 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $30 --- ---'It’s worth noting that many of the most talented writers she discusses —

    Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Bishop, Joan Didion — objected to being categorized as women

    writers and preferred to think of themselves simply as writers. As Elizabeth Bishop put it, “art is art and to

    separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc. into two sexes is to emphasize values that are not art.”

    Showalter handles these rebels by corralling them into special subchapters with titles like “Dissenters.” One of the

    dissenters, Cynthia Ozick, argued against expecting “artists who are women . . . to deliver ‘women’s art,’ as if

    10,000 other possibilities, preoccupations, obsessions, were inauthentic, for women, or invalid, or worse yet,

    lyingly evasive.”' {excerpt from the review By KATIE ROIPHE, published: March 5, 2009}

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    Liberate Babyguile's Avatar
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    It is ludicrous to use all-engrosing terms such as women's art and women's writing as if there is a common theme which runs through them all. Why try and niche the work of women, over 50% of the population of most MEDC countries, into a single group?

    Men's art? Men's writing? No.

    Women's writing is incredibly diverse and challenging.
    'Anger's my meat; I sup upon myself,
    And so shall starve with feeding.'
    Volumnia in Coriolanus

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    I find her a boring essayist personally, and way to Bloom-influenced, ironically. We'll see how this one is though.

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    Registered User blithe_spirit's Avatar
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    I have never seen the point of categorizing authors in this way. Really good writers are able to transcend categories such as gender, race, age, time, etc. That, surely, is one of the reasons why they are really good writers.

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blithe_spirit View Post
    I have never seen the point of categorizing authors in this way. Really good writers are able to transcend categories such as gender, race, age, time, etc. That, surely, is one of the reasons why they are really good writers.
    I'm going to play the devils advocate a little, and take a Showalterian / structuralist feminist perspective, to spark a little debate.

    It could be argued that one shouldn't need to "transcend" gender, race, age, time, and any other such thing. Theorists like the great Helene Cixous would argue, that women writers should embrace their femininity, and express that, and not try to "transcend" it, and ultimately reinforce patriarchal assumptions about art.

    In truth, the woman's experience is just as important as the "male" experience, and the female perspective is just as relevant as the male perspective (whatever those means, I wouldn't get into post-structuralist gender studies right now, because that is a whole other topic). By highlighting the tradition, Showalter doesn't try to show women who have transcended their "gender" of all things, she is trying to show what is female expression, and highlight the tradition, and similarities between female writers.

    My issue with her, is that she is just a pretty bad writer. Gynocriticism only goes so far, in my opinion, and her unearthing of texts, which ultimately don't even form a female tradition, doesn't go very far. I'll have to read this one to find out, but really I'm at the moment not so interested in the "canon" of female writing (western, English female writing mind you), and more interested in contemporary female expression. In that sense, I have to agree with the load of criticism that has been thrown at Showalter, highlighting that ultimately she just reinforces patriarchal values, by reinforcing a patriarchal canon, and ignoring the contemporary expression of Women.

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    Registered User blithe_spirit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    In truth, the woman's experience is just as important as the "male" experience, and the female perspective is just as relevant as the male perspective ...
    I agree entirely but while feminist and post-structuralist criticism provide us with another perspective on literature regardless of whether it conveys the female experience or the male experience, I'm not sure that it necessarily creates a need to distinguish separate categories of writing.

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    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    I cannot remember who it was now, but I remember there was one poet who stated that she did not know what it meant to be a woman poet, becasue she was just a poet, and she did not want to be praised for her work based upon her gender, but becasue of the merit of the work itself.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Urgh, stupid terms and genres, like gay literature for pretty much any book that has that theme. Are straight people not allowed to read it or something?

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    Oh! Does it matter gender of the author if the book is worthy of attention?

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    Tu le connais, lecteur... Kafka's Crow's Avatar
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    People who read and read a lot can tell the difference between male and female writing from miles. They don't have to be the same. One doesn't have to be better or worse. There is no male Jane Austin. I am reading Gone with the Wind these days. Very feminine, very great. Mitchell doesn't have to be Tolstoy or Pasternak. She has written a great war novel which is different and this different should be celeberated not effaced.
    Last edited by Kafka's Crow; 07-17-2011 at 01:59 PM. Reason: typo!
    "The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the sh1t the more I am grateful to him..."
    -- Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett

  11. #11
    Time for Tea IAmNoBird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kafka's Crow View Post
    People who read and read a lot can tell the difference between male and female writing from miles.
    Agreed. From my experience (and this will necessarily be limited - there isn't enough time in my entire life to sample all I'd like) female writers tend to be more introspective in terms of their characters, and sometimes this means themselves, too. Men writers, however, tend to look outward and be more story-orientated. The differences between men and women writers are usually extremely subtle and this is just one small difference - which, of course, doesn't always apply - out of many.

    In saying this, I don't understand why a good female writer would write with "being a woman" in mind unless the subject matter was specifically about that. Surely we cannot assume that having an opinion or an idea is necessarily influenced by what sex you are. In fact, a lot of the time writers need to step outside of themselves to create a character in order to gain an idea of their perspective.

    Personally, I don't think that novels should be lumped into "women's literature" just because they happen to be written by women. The subject matter is what counts.
    Last edited by IAmNoBird; 07-17-2011 at 12:54 PM.

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