Rooms with a View: Feminist Diary Fiction, 1952-1999

Rooms with a View: Feminist Diary Fiction, 1952-1999

Rooms with a View: Feminist Diary Fiction, 1952-1999

Rooms with a View: Feminist Diary Fiction, 1952-1999

Synopsis

This analysis of fictional journals by Alba de Cespedes, Dacia Maraini, Susanna Tamaro, Doris Lessing, Margaret Attwood, and Simone de Beauvoir explores the multifaceted presence of this very coexistence. The critical readings herein at tease out significant textual passages that most clearly revel a struggle that occurs on two different levels, that is, within the psyche of the diarist and between the diarist and the phallocentric society that opposes her access to writing.

Excerpt

“A WOMAN MUST HAVE MONEY AND A ROOM OF HER OWN IF SHE IS TO write fiction” (1929, 6). With such a lapidary sentence, Virginia Woolf expressed in 1929 the basic needs of a woman writer. The evoked presence of the public and the domestic spheres is central to this statement. Money insures a woman’s safe interaction with the outside world, granting her a superior status that allows her to pursue the domain of the letters without financial pressures. On the other hand, the “room of her own” defines a different sort of independence, that which should derive from the loosening of those ties that bind her to domestic duties. In that room, a woman is neither mother nor wife; in that room, she does not derive her own sense of identity from her relation to the people around her; in that room she relates only to the characters she creates on the pages of her writings; in that room, she is just a writer. Paradoxically, it is from the enclosure of that room that a woman takes her most distant flights, those in which she ventures on the wings of her own imagination. Reacting against patriarchal society, which wants her enslaved to her body, a body which cannot and should not think, a woman frees herself, in that “room of her own,” from a wall of constraints which was built around her for far too many centuries. She escapes from the enforced seclusion in the domestic space, that house which too often resembles a prison, by choosing to inhabit another enclosed area, a room in which, however, she has freely elected to live.

In Nonostante Platone, feminist philosopher Adriana Cavarero describes Penelope as the mythic representative of a form of female independence which shapes itself exactly through the voluntary withdrawal into a Woolfian room of one’s own: “Penelope, though staying in the royal palace, by endlessly weaving and unweaving delimits her own place where she is nobody’s wife. Neither the wife of one of her suitors, nor of Ulysses, who is elsewhere, having been gone for twenty years” (1990, 14, my translation). Penelope’s weaving-room is a place which shelters her from men, a place where she weaves her own story, a place where her endless weaving grants her a different temporal dimension which cannot be entered, and understood, by men. By spinning during the day the same threads that she unspins . . .

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