Auto-Da-Fay: Fay Weldon's Cosmopolitan Feminism in Her Autobiographical Writings

By Smith, Patricia Juliana | Hecate, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Auto-Da-Fay: Fay Weldon's Cosmopolitan Feminism in Her Autobiographical Writings


Smith, Patricia Juliana, Hecate


In the American edition of Fay Weldon's The Life and Loves of a SheDevil (which differs substantially from the original British edition), Ruth Patchett, the woebegone eponymous protagonist, finds herself abandoned by her husband, who has left her penniless in his pursuit of a woman who is more attractive and very wealthy. As the reality of her situation sinks in, she contemplates her dilemma:

'What about me?' asked Ruth, and the words sped out into the universe, to join myriad other 'what about me's' [sic] uttered by myriad other women, abandoned that very day by their husbands. Women in Korea and Buenos Aires and Stockholm and Detroit and Dubai and Tashkent ... Sound waves do not die out. They travel forever and forever. All our sentences are immortal. Our useless bleatings circle the universe for all eternity. (She-Devil [US] 46)1

In her more than thirty-five novels written between 1967 and the present, Weldon has continually expounded a cosmopolitan feminist philosophy that maintains a global view of the hardships and injustices that are the lot of women in their respective patriarchal cultures. Such conditions tend to pit women against each other in competition for the safeguards that traditional heterosexual marriage purportedly offers; but, as one of Weldon's characters in The Life and Loves of a She-Devil later tells Ruth, "Women like us" -that is, women that male-dominated culture ignores or abandons -"must learn to stick together" (She-Devil [US] 119).

Weldon's 2002 autobiography, the sardonically titled Auto da Fay, reveals the life behind the stories and how that life influenced the author's perspectives, not only on the status of women in society but also her disdain for all forms of separatism, whether national, political, or sexual, which as critics such as Martha Nussbaum and Kok-Chor Tan have argued, is the antithesis of cosmopolitanism. The narrative of Weldon's childhood and adolescence was shaped by accidents of natural and manmade disaster and the manner in which her family, eventually an all-female one, managed to navigate these travails. Her parents had emigrated from England soon after their marriage. For her father, a young medical doctor from a workingclass background, New Zealand represented a promise of a better future. His subsequent success, however, was at the expense of his wife and two daughters. A womaniser and a spendthrift, he stifled his wife's literary ambitions then divorced her, leaving her to fend for herself and her daughters.

Her mother, the novelist Margaret Jepson, was of more sophisticated, indeed bohemian, origins.2 The daughter of Edgar Jepson, a once popular if now obscure writer of the early twentiethcentury, she was a member of the cohort surrounding Evelyn Waugh in the 1920s, prior to her marriage. Like many of the female writers and musicians in her family tree, Margaret Jepson subordinated her art for the sake of love and crossed the globe in the steps of-or fleeing from-the man in her life. Weldon observes that her nonconforming mother did not fit in with the more staid and colonised New Zealanders:

I remember my mother turning cartwheels on the lawn, white legs flashing, short skirt whirling.... None of my friends' mothers turned cartwheels. They wore pinnies and made apple pies. We were different. 1 became aware that we were homies. We came from a far-off place called England, and didn't really belong here. This made you both better and worse, before you even began. Sometimes people didn't even understand what you said. Then you felt stupid. You wanted to speak like your friends, but your mother wanted you to speak as she did and was quite cross when you didn't. You wanted to say "yiss" but she wanted you to say "yes." So you learned to speak two different languages, one for home, and the other for your friends. (Auto da Fay 25)

The dichotomies between the colonised and the colonisers, between the cosmopolitan and those separate from the larger world thus became evident to Weldon long before she could understand the politics and social norms that created such divisions. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Auto-Da-Fay: Fay Weldon's Cosmopolitan Feminism in Her Autobiographical Writings
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.