Genders by David Glover, Cora Kaplan

By David Glover, Cora Kaplan

An attractive quantity which discusses conception, feedback and exemplary genres and texts, offering a helpful ancient chronology of the advance of the time period in numerous contexts.

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As we have seen, Wittig’s textual manoeuvres are not easily reproduced in translation: the ‘you’ of the English version of 23 24 INTRODUCTION L’Opoponax is gender-free, but suggests a closer, far more familiar idiom than the original on. And in the case of Les Guérillères the unavailability of a gendered alternative to ‘they’ led Wittig’s translator to replace elles by ‘the women’, a substitution that wholly subverts the author’s own avowed intentions. Nevertheless, Wittig’s fiction is a good example of the way in which fiction can serve as a laboratory for the exploration of gendered modes of consciousness, including those we might imagine to be among its terminal forms.

All these uses of femininity are interconnected, and their interface is most often their contradictory evocation of femininity as at once sexual, transgressive, even threatening, and as inferior, weak and dependent. Does ‘lady luck’, we might ask, reward the gambler by her propriety or her compliance? When, for example, Virginia Woolf opens a 1927 essay on ‘The Art of Fiction’ with the conceit ‘that fiction is a lady and a lady who has somehow got herself into trouble’ she makes just such an oblique metaphorical use of femininity, playing knowingly with the kinds of ‘trouble’ that women, and even ‘ladies’, might get into or up to, and so conjuring up the cultural misogyny that such a situation might invoke, while mocking, at the same time, the archaic chivalry of male critics: ‘gentlemen’ who ‘have ridden to her rescue’ (Woolf 1992: 121).

As a result Guest explains, women’s selfpositioning at this moment is profoundly paradoxical, for even 39 40 FEMINITY AND FEMINISM when highly politicized ‘feminine subjects’ in the 1790s, like Hays and Wollstonecraft, conceived ‘of themselves in terms of discourses of politics, of the division of labour, of civil and commercial culture’ they must both reject those divisions insofar as they excluded women and accept them as a regime which would allow them to be agents in modern culture. New, reformed and liberated femininity had simultaneously to accept the terms of the market – including the volatile feelings that were its psychological drivers – and abjure them.

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