المرأة والكتابة الروائية / Women and Fiction
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Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics
[In this article, Woolf brings her two professions, as both critic and novelist, together, writing critically about women's fictonal writing. She addresses such issues as the artistic and sociohistorical circumstances that condition women's writing, the (non)continuity of women's writing, why women have always been made to believe that they can only write creatively in the fictional mode, etc. The following are excerpts from the article that demonstrate its major points of focus. * Why was there no continuous writing done by women before the eighteenth century? Why did they then write, almost as habitually as men, and in the course of that writing produce some of the classics of English fiction? And why did their art then, and to some extent does their art still, take the form of fiction? * Very little is known about women. The history of England is the history of the male line, not of the female. Of our fathers we know always some fact, some distinction. But of our mothers, our grandmothers, our great-grand-mothers, what remains? Nothing but a tradition. * The extraordinary woman depends on the ordinary woman. It is only when we know what were the conditions of the average woman's life, it is only when we can measure the way of life and the experience of life made possible to the ordinary woman that we can account for the success or failure of the extraordinary woman as a writer. * Strange spaces of silence seem to separate one period of activity from another. Law and custom were of course largely responsible for these strange intermissions of silence and speech. It is clear that the extraordinary outburst of fiction in the beginning of the nineteenth century in England was heralded by innumerable slight changes in law and customs and manners. * Yet there was still considerable pressure upon women to write novels. Fiction was, and still is, the easiest thing for a woman to write. A novel can be taken up or put down more easily than a play or a poem. * In the nineteenth century, a woman lived almost solely in her home and her emotions. And those nineteenth-century novels were profoundly influenced by the fact that women who wrote them were excluded by their sex from certain kinds of experience. * But the novels of women were not only affected by the necessarily narrow range of the writer's experience. They showed another characteristic which may be traced to the writer's sex. We are conscious of a woman's presence- of someone resenting the treatment of her sex and pleading its rights. * The great change that has crept into women's writing is a change of attitude. The woman writer is no longer bitter. She is no longer angry. She is no longer pleading and protesting as she writes. We are approaching the time when her writing will have little or no foreign influence to disturb it. * Before a woman can write exactly as she wishes to write, she has many difficulties to face. There is the technical difficulty that the very form of the sentence does not fit her. But that is the means to an end, and the end is still to be reached when a woman has the courage to surmount opposition and the determination to be true to herself. But they have another order also, which is the order imposed upon them by convention. * The values of a woman are not the values of a man. When a woman comes to write a novel, she will find that she is perpetually wishing to alter the established values. But here, too, women are beginning to respect their own sense of values. They are less interested in themselves; they are more interested in other women. Women are beginning to explore their own sex, to write of women as women have never been written of before. * If one should try to sum up the character of women's fiction, one should say that it is courageous; it is sincere; it keeps closely to what women feel. It is not bitter. It does not insist upon its femininity. The greater impersonality of women's lives will encourage the poetic spirit. They will look beyond the personal and political relationships to the wider questions which the poet tries to solve-of our destiny and the meaning of life. Their technique will be bolder and richer. * If we may prophesy, women in time to come will write fewer novels, but better novels; and not novels only, but poetry and criticism and history. But in that, to be sure, one is looking ahead to that golden, that perhaps fabulous, age when women will have what has so long been denied them-leisure, and money, and a room to themselves.]
El Hamamsy, W.
(1999). المرأة والكتابة الروائية / Women and Fiction. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, 185–191.
Woolf, Virginia, et al.
"المرأة والكتابة الروائية / Women and Fiction." Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, no. 19, 1999, pp. 185–191.