Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Constructing Space: from Pizan's City to Woolf's Room

Forgive me if this is rushed, but I’ve promised myself to write on a daily basis, even if a few sentences.
So I read Virginia Woolf’s Room of One’s Own today and having read Christine De Pizan’s A City of Ladies, a comparison was inevitable, as I’m sure many have done. Pizan wrote in the early fifteenth century and Woolf five centuries later, but lamenting the status of women in literature, particularly as depicted by men, and the need for women’s voices to be heard. In short, Woolf argues that women writers require a space of their own and must be financially capable of attaining and sustaining such a space and Pizan an entire city. What’s interesting is not only the relevance of Pizan’s work at the present time but her aims surpassed Woolf’s, suggesting that women have been able to acquire a space of their own. While both attempt to distance themselves from their work, Pizan by introducing three allegorical figures, Reason, Justice and Rectitude, and Woolf by introducing the first person narrator as Mary Breton. Unlike Woolf, Pizan herself is the first person narrator actively constructing a city of women. So while sexual politics are present in both texts, Pizan attempting painting women as superior beings as to oppose the common held belief of their inferiority. Woolf was aiming for something more androgynous, yet her definition of androgyny sprang from a masculinist view of literature and writing, that is not to say a patriarchal view as she clearly denounces patriarchy; that is, she aimed to write as men have written, since they’ve had a freedom of mind and space. Throughout her text, she represses any form of emotion or anger in the hopes of appearing as a rational, collected, suppressing that which is connected with the feminine, mainly emotions (I’ll have more to say on women’s writing and essentialism when I write on Cixous and Irigaray).
An abrupt ending for now!

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