Archive for October, 2013

Minal Bhundia (K1111811) Group A “Who Speaks for Women?”


Listening To Silences – New Essays in Feminist Criticism – Edited by  Elaine Hedges, Shelley Fisher Fishkin


Women’s Silence as a Ritual of The Truth: A Study of Literary Expressions in Austen, Brontë and Woolf – by Patricia Laurence – Pages 156 – 166



This article compares the works of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë and Virginia Woolf exploring how the silence of the women characters in their texts represents ambiguity. It explores three different ideas surrounding ‘the listening woman’, ‘the thinking woman’ and woman as observers. Ironically, the silence of women could highlight women’s oppression from public spheres however it also could also be interpreted as a means of expression. ‘Depending on one’s definition of reality, silences woven into the fabric of a women’s text can be an absence of a presence’, this quotation implies that if we are focusing on patriarchal issues then the silence of a woman shows her weakness, however, the silence may also may show an expression of anger, a women’s presence and as a text waiting to be read. ‘The listening woman’ emphasises on the power between characters and mentions how Jane Austen develops women characters through her novels who listen and observe more, this is then compared to Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of Ones Own’ where the character has a mind of her own although she is tied by social expectations of having to listen to men. ‘The thinking women’ focuses on women’s dreams and the example of the character of Jane in Jane Eyre is used, through the use of soliloquies Brontë shows Jane’s self interest and through the use of dreams her female consciousness and inner thoughts are revealed. Finally, female observers and ‘psycho-narration’ is discussed and the article is concluded with the idea that throughout these texts a silence of women is a ritual of truth as it allows them to think, feel, dream or observe and ‘silence is the space in narration where culture and female consciousness do sometimes reveal themselves’.


Elaine Showalter states a critique that in fact blanks and spaces within the texts and lack of female speech does not show female consciousness but shows ‘the blinds of a prison-house’, showing the social inequalities at the time and the weakness of the female against male. This text also suggests the importance to acknowledge that expression consists of signs and gestures and even in today’s society where there is still patriarchy to some extent, a woman is able to speak for herself and these woman writers do not have to be writing specifically for either gender, the texts should be focused for anyone to read. It may be ironic that women writers develop characters that show constrained roles; however this article illustrates how writers manage to portray women characters as powerful, despite their silences in texts.






A Summary of ‘The Impersonal Strategy’ by Dr Katerina Koutsantoni. Post by Khadija Azfar Group B

The topic of the new few Blog Posts is “Who Speaks for Women?” The posts you will see are written by my wonderful students and relate to this topic in a general way, or to a specific academic essay that they have located on this topic.  Other students will then read the essay and the blog and then share their comments here.


The essay to which Khadija  refers can be found here:

“In her article entitled ‘The Impersonal Strategy’, Dr Katerina Koutsantoni explains how in Virginia Woolf’s modern forms of writing she maintains a level of impersonality in her work. She states that Woolf tries to keep a distance from her writing; not writing as a woman but simply writing as an androgynous voice of sensibility that her readers (which would mainly consist of men) could relate to. Koutsantoni goes on to claim that Woolf used impersonality as a ‘philosophy of anonymity’ which she used in her writing in order to not only voice the female self without being discriminated against, but also to shift attention from gender to a neutral common reader. In her article, Koutsantoni explains that impersonality implies that the text is unbiased and objective – however this may not necessarily be the case. Woolf’s essay may have some unconscious bias in it as she is a women fighting for the feminist movement.

Koutsantoni goes on to illustrate how Woolf’s modern form of writing is ‘intersubjective’. In both ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and in ‘The Common Reader’ Woolf writes the essays almost like a conversation between the writer and reader. Although she is expressing her views and opinions, she is also taking into account the subjective views of her readers.


However, critic Elaine Showalter claimed that by hiding behind an androgynous veil, Woolf was not creating her own literary identity. Furthermore, Woolf faced disapproval for not responding to criticism with anger, but instead trying to stay calm and distant and answer in a civilised way. Adrienne Rich claims that by staying impersonal, Virginia Woolf’s argument comes across as being ‘devoid of passion, to lack conviction, and to demonstrate only a ‘dogged tentativeness’.’ In other words that her argument is inferior because she refuses to lose control and argue with passion and emotion rather than with intellect.

Judith Kegan Gardiner however claims that Woolf is correct in her proposed androgyny because to write as a woman would mean opening herself up to the prejudices and stereotypes that were used against women writers at the time. In this sense, impersonality is greatly advantageous to Woolf because it allows her to be judged fairly in a predominantly male society where women writers were often ridiculed and frowned upon.”