Woman and artist – either incomplete. Both credulous of completion.
Elizabeth Barret Browning.
When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
Virginia Woolf highlighted the woman writer Jane Austen on this paragraph, in A Room of One’ s Own. Woolf traces the rise of women writers, emphasizing in particular Jane Austen, the Brontës, and George Eliot. I will talk about Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte in connection with Virginia Woolf. So, both English women writers, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, were predecessors of Virginia Woolf in the matter of feminism. They were patterns to Virginia Woolf, that is, they influenced her.
Jane Austen was a woman writer in the eighteenth century in Great Britain. She, who didn’ t go to the University, was pioneer in writing as a woman in a patriarchal society. Acoording to Ellen Moers,
“Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story,” wrote Jane Austen. “Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.” Now women seized the pen; and female self-consciousness brought heroinism to literature. As literary women have always been grateful to say, it all went back to the first heroine of letters, [Samuel] Richardson’s Pamela, not because of her virtue but because, as she says herself, “I have got such a knack of writing, that when I am by myself, I cannot sit without a pen in my hands”1
And as the Victorian Web says: “Austen’s “heroines’ subordinate role in the family,…their dutifulness, meditativeness, self-abnegation, and self-control” are characteristic”2
As an example of her ideas, the following sentence is from her novel Persuasion I think it reflects the idea: “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”3
Also Charlotte Brontë, an English writer in the nineteenth century, was pioneer as a feminist writer. As Melissa Lowes states, “Brontë, in her subtlety, wrote of simple women, who relied upon the respect of themselves, rather than society, to provide fulfillment in their lives. Through her characters, Brontë gave the gift of the modern woman, a woman determined to make her own way, and live her life by her own set of standards, dictated not by society but by herself, and herself alone.”4
Charlotte critized the use of sexuality to seduce men. In her most famous novel, Jane Eyre, we can read this fragment which shows her feminist ideas: “I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”5
- Ellen Moers. Literary Women. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976. Print, pg. 120 – 121.
- Stockton, Kathryn B. “Jane Austen and Feminist Critics.” The Victorian Web. July 2000. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.victorianweb.org/previctorian/austen/gender.html
- Austen, Jane. Persuasion. London: York, 1999. Print, pg. 70.
- Lowes, Melissa. “Charlotte Brontë: A Modern Woman.” The Victorian Web. 15 Feb 2008. 20 May 2013. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/lowes1.html
- Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Essex: Longman, 1994. Print, pg. 131.