Reconfigured Spheres: Feminist Explorations of Literary Space

By Margaret R. Higonnet; Joan Templeton | Go to book overview

Feminist Curves in Contemporary Literary Space

KATHLEEN L. KOMAR

In her article "The Squaring of the Circle: The Male Takeover of Power in Architectural Shapes," art historian and archaeologist Cillie Rentmeister compellingly explores the "curved/angular" polarity.1 Rentmeister argues that the originally matriarchal peoples of the Mediterranean and the Near East had a predominantly oval and egg-shaped architectural style. That this style was supplanted by the monumental architecture of Greece evidences the victory of the patriarchy over these earlier matriarchal cultures, or "the male takeover of power in architectural shapes." While Rentmeister wisely cautions against the simplistic transferral of historical knowledge to serve as a model for revolutionary feminist action in the present, her study nonetheless makes clear the importance of space and forms for the explorations of gender. Christiane Erlemann in her essay "What is Feminist Architecture?" takes Rentmeister's analyses one step further: "women's spatial utopias nowadays lean heavily toward curved forms, and if we want to assume that there is more to them than an outline sketch then they must be rooted in a critique of the dominant shapes, a critique which finds symbolic expression in the circular form."2

Like Erlemann and Rentmeister, both Sarah Kirsch and Alice Walker acknowledge the association of particular kinds of spatial images and metaphors with males and females--an association common in literary analysis since long before Freud. When the main character in Kirsch's "Blitz aus heiterm Himmel" (A Bolt from the Blue) miraculously changes from a woman into a man, one of her first actions is to replace her apartment's curved spaces, which she had preferred as a woman, with rectangular configurations more appropriate to her new male being.3 From the op

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