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The Woman Author: A Comparative Analysis

2607 words - 10 pages

The fundamental notion of the female writer evolved within the nineteenth century when women were, and continued to be, considered as inferior beings when compared to their male counterparts. This is especially noticeable within the literary canon, where female writers are sparsely included in ‘reputable’ works of literature, let alone incorporated into any canon at all. Virginia Woolf, in her essay titled “In a Room of One’s Own” (1925), details the apparent trials and tribulations that female writers in the Victorian era experience when attempting to become recognized within a literary community. The female author is revisited during the second-wave feminist movement by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar in their psychoanalytic text, “Infection in the Sentence” (1979), which focuses on the “anxiety” associated with the act of writing as a woman. The approach to identifying the complex social constructs applied to women writers differ due to Woolf’s insistence on androgynous writing in order to unify perceived male and female characteristics, whereas Gilbert and Gubar celebrate distinctly feminine literature as a means to encourage an active literary community of women. Both texts acknowledge the socially challenging function of authorship when considering the role of women as writers in a male-dominated literary community. By analyzing these texts through a feminist lens, it is evident that the notion of the female author is, and will forever be, encapsulated within the concept of gender, itself. Female authorship is discussed through literary concepts of genius, androgyny, popular canon, and psychoanalysis. In order to analyze the ways in which women writers have traditionally been rejected from the Western literary sphere and the subsequent reinvigoration into the aforementioned community, it is crucial to consider the forgotten sense of female genius conveniently dismissed by generalized patriarchal oppression.
Throughout various historical eras, female literary genius has essentially been lost in a canon created and maintained by groups of male writers, critics and scholars. Women were often considered inferior intellectual beings and incapable of producing substantial work in the social sphere due to the common misconception that women belong in the domestic household as family caretakers. Patriarchal oppression lead to female censorship, and women’s literary skills outside of the home were entirely unappreciated and disregarded as inferior nonsense. Eras of significant works produced by women have been destroyed and discouraged, resulting in the notion of the lost canon of women’s texts. Women also discouraged themselves from publishing texts because even they had “assumed literature had to be male” (Gilbert and Gubar 1928). Woolf recounts the popular story of the possibility of Shakespeare’s sister and the hypothetical repercussions regarding her social role in the literary community (none at all), in lieu of the favoured misogynistic...

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