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Womens Rights and Empowerment in Sula and A Room of Ones Own - Essay Example

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The outcry against the unfair treatment of women by a patriarchal and phallogocentric society has been championed for centuries by many writers, whether essayist, novelist, poet, political activist or literary critic. The feminist movement and struggles for women's liberation and suffrage have in common the desire to increase awareness of imbedded patriarchal values that silence and undermine women, and argue for women's equal humanity, voice and agency…
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Womens Rights and Empowerment in Sula and A Room of Ones Own
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Download file to see previous pages Room is Woolf's reflection on the state of women, and fiction by women from a historical perspective, concluding that "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" (1). For Woolf, fictional production necessitates both economic and intellectual freedom, both of which allows the (woman) writer to cultivate the mind required to produce "great fiction" (29). After being chased off the lawns and refused entry into the library at the chauvinist Oxbridge (2), she bemoans the jobs and careers withheld from women because of fixed gender roles (6) and wishes their mothers had "gone into business" to allow her contemporaries the same economic and intellectual freedoms as men, though she concedes that this "would necessitate suppression of families altogether" (6) as child-bearing and economic freedom are mutually exclusive.
She also deplores the poverty of a female literary inheritance. Due to the phallogentric nature of English society and literature, evident from even the newspapers (9), many books were written about women before the 1800s but they were exclusively by men who take liberty to preach, analyze and deprecate women (8). While Shakespeare wrote of strong-willed women who "have burnt like beacons in all the works of the poets from the beginning of time", in reality they were "locked up, beaten and flung about the room [and] all but absent from history" (11). More importantly, the woman "never writes her own life and scarcely keeps a diary" (12).
In anger at being "told that one is naturally the inferior of a little man" (9), Woolf calls for a female literary voice which she pioneers by subverting masculine traditions. Instead of the weaker sex, she suggests that women have been a mirror that elevates man to his current status of glorious superiority (10), and she re-imagines the lives of women who didn't have the opportunity to become Shakespeares, and "that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman" (14). Woolf is hungry for information on women from a woman's perspective and wants historians (men) to rewrite history to include the suppressed stories (13).
She notes the change in women's literary production in the emergence of a female canon, with distinct styles and concerns. While early women writers failed miserably at imitating the male voice, and wrote under the veil of male pen names, others like Bronte and Austen managed to cull out a female space within the canon, to their credit, and have prepared a literary tradition for contemporary writers. Bronte and Austen "wrote as women write, not as men", fomenting their voices in the space of the communal sitting room as opposed to the male-dominated war fields (20). While the writers of previous centuries faced incredible constraints such as gender prejudice and emotional strain (14-15), with a legacy and the vote, contemporary women are free from patriarchy and can have "a view of the open sky" (11).
In Sula, the African-American novelist Toni Morrison is not as concerned with self-assertion through literary production as is Woolf, but through sexual freedom. Set in a black community in Ohio in the 1920s to 60s, the novel is concerned with empowerment but this issue is further complicated by race. Woolf's ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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