Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Critical Article Summary

Meese, Elizabeth. "When Virginia Looked at Vita, What Did She See; Or, Lesbian: Feminist: Woman-What's the Differ(e/a)nce?." Feminist Studies 18.1 (1992): 99-117.
This article focuses on Virginia and Vita’s affair and how it was the Catalyst and shaper of the novel Orlando. Some of her sources are letters back and forth between Virginia and Vita. She refers to the novel as one long love letter. This article, like the last one relates sexual identity closely with clothing choice. She theorizes that Orlando’s duel genders might have been a way for Woolf to write about lesbians in a less radical fashion. I think the background about the affair is important because most every critique of the novel references it. If much of the gender-play is based on how androgynous Vita was, that makes it central to my argument. Also the issue of signifiers and signifier confusion is important to this article. The article suggest this with the differ(e/a)nce business.

Critical Article Summary

Burns, Christy L. "Re-Dressing Feminist Identities: Tensions between Essential and Constructed Selves in Virginia Woolf's Orlando." Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal 40.3 (1994): 342-364.

Again this article describes the novel as an exploration of sexuality and its role in society. She also believes is written as a biography of Vita, Virginia Woolf's lover. Burn’s describes how Woolf plays with the concept of truth, especially concerning gender and the ability of costume to mask or distort gender. This article is pragmatic in how it describes the novel as a mirror to the reader. She writes that the oak tree is symbolism for the way Orlando’s body changes forms while he/she stays essentially the same. The Victorian era is when gender difference becomes the most obvious and oppressive. It is then that Orlando feels duty to marry as her role as a woman. She writes finally that the goal of the novel was to take biography and gender roles shake them up and spit them out, Burns believes she succeeded. I think I will use this article a lot as I find her explanation of the way Woolf plays with gender fascinating, as well as fairly easy to understand.
Okin, Susan Moller. "Sexual Orientation, Gender, and Families: Dichotomizing Differences." Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 11.1 (1996): 30-48.

This article represents a mimetic perspective. It discusses the way literature mirrors reality. According to this article, Woolf took the literary tradition of dichotomizing gender difference and turned it on its head. The author envisions a gender- free society where people are free to act as they please and wear what they please with no negative societal implications. He see’s this as very positive because dichotomy can often lead to inferiority for woman and pain for those that don’t fit neatly into gender roles. He sees Orlando as a spoof on this human tendency. Humans love to divide everything into categories. She too thought the plot was related to Vita, but not as completely as the first two articles I summarized. Clearly Orlando finds being a woman more difficult to be a woman because she cross dresses. It becomes clear that most gender difference is arbitrary. He thinks Woolf makes this clear because many times, she describes Orlando’s clothing as gender- neutral. He also writes about how strange and radical Woolf was at the time that she was published.

Critical Article Summary

Hovey, Jaime. "'Kissing a Negress in the Dark': Englishness as a Masquerade in Woolf's Orlando." PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 112.3 (1997): 393-404

Jaime Hovey discusses Orlando’s gender ambivalences and their relationship to Nationalism. In this article the author writes that Orlando is roughly based on the life of Vita, Virginia’s lover. The author also writes that racial purity, as an Anglo-Saxon, is a large part of Orlando’s identity, but this signifier fades as Orlando becomes a woman. This is because although the same “racial purity” still exists it is no longer identified with the same power. She also believes that the novel is a study of white, female homosexuality. The author believes the controversy in sexuality in the novel is grounded by Orlando’s race and class standing. She also believes the tension is alleviated by the story’s many ambiguities. I think, to simplify what she is talking about is that the nitty gritty details are left out of her/his magical sex-change. Orlando goes to bed a beautiful rich man, and wakes up a beautiful woman. This removes any explicit sexuality from the text so the reader can focus on the differences between Orlando’s experience as a man and woman. Although I really enjoyed this article and found it very insightful I'm not sure it'll be much help to me as I do my project. This is simply because it focuses more on English-ness and race then gender. I might cite some small parts that talk about gender as a side issue.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Three Guineas

It is easy to draw connections between this book and A Room of One's Own. They both focus on education for women. They also both focus on economics and the importance of money if a person is to have any power. But this novel brings in the added angle of how women having a say could prevent war. Woolf puts all these arguments together so compellingly. I love the structure of the book and how she is deciding how to donate her money, since indirect actions like this, signing a check or writing letters were the only ways a woman could exert her will. While she does go on to repeat the argument I would like to do a closer reading of the first time she puts it all together on pages 16-20.

First she makes the connection between war and the economy and a woman's role (or lack there of) in both. "At any rate that method is not open to us; both the Army and Navy are closed to our sex. We are not allowed to fight. Not again are we allowed to be members of the Stock Exchange. Thus we can use neither the pressure of force or the pressure of money" (16) The issue seems to be influence, the ability to cause events to happen the way one wants them to, or to change things. Here she directs her arguement toward men as a whole. Woolf also points out that women don't have the ability to strike effectively, since a halt in thier labor would do little to the professions. They can not say they simply won't manufacture supplies for the war, because the effect would be negligible.

It is the previously help opinion that the way a woman can exert her force the most powerfully is indirect, through a man. The passage she chooses by Sir Ernest Wild is a riot. The woman is actually immensley powerful, she expresses this power by getting her husband to do whatever she wants, while at the same time, not allowing him to know that she is doing it. She restates the idea from a Room of One's Own that the most important thing a woman has gained is the ability to participate in a profession. When she is making her own money, rather than relying on the genorosity of her father or husband, she has an opportunity to be truly independant. She doesn't feel the need to charm men to earn a living, so she is free to express her opinions. It is only once she has the right to communicate her feelings that she may have any chance to prevent wars.

There are a few other parts of the book so far that I have found really interesting. I love the way she discusses the hypocrisy have how England is supposed to be about freedom and about liberty. She then questions whether a woman in England had this same experience. I also enjoy the parelels drawn between patriarchal constructions and facisim. I also found the discussion about the different purposes of clothing for men and women very funny. A woman's clothes hide her nakedness, draw attention to her beauty, and might even help her get a husband. But a man uses his clothes to advertise his achievements. He has buttons, ribbons, badges, each with a seperate meaning. "A woman who advertized her motherhood by a tuft of horse hair on her shoulder, would scarcely, you will agree, be a venerable object." (26) Tee-hee