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Modernism and Gender
Virginia Woolf,
A Room of One’s Own
• “The title women and fiction might mean, and
you may have meant it to mean,
• women and what they are like,
• or it might mean women and the fiction that they
• or it might mean women and the fiction that is
written about them;
• or it might mean that somehow all three are
inextricably linked together.” (3)
Ezra Pound
• “Make it new”
• “The phallus or spermatozoid charging, head-on, the
female chaos”
• “Even oneself has felt it driving any new idea into the
great passive vulva of London”
• “The mind is an up-spurt of sperm”, “the form-creator”
• “Without any digression on feminism, [. . .] one offers
woman as the accumulation of her hereditary aptitudes,
[. . .] but to man, given what we have in history, the
‛inventions’, the new gestures, the extravagance, the
wild shots, the new bathing of cerebral tissues.”
Marinetti’s futurist manifesto
“We are out to glorify war:
The only health-giver of the world!
Militarism! Patriotism!
The destructive Arm of the Anarchist!
Ideas that kill!
Contempt for women!”
• Otto Weininger: Sex and Character: “Women
have no existence and essence; they are
not, they are nothing. Woman has no share
in ontological reality.”
• D.H Lawrence: “Perhaps the greatest
revolution in our modern times is the
emancipation of women: and perhaps the
deepest foght for two thousand years or
more has been the fight for woman’s
independence, or freedom, call it what you
will. The fight has been bitter and, it seems
to me, it is won. It is even going beyond, and
becoming the tyranny of woman, of the
individual woman in the house, and of the
feminine ideas and ideals in the world.”
T.S. Eliot: The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock
“In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder: ‛Do I dare’ and, ‛Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: ‛How his hair is growing thin!’)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
(They will say: ‛But how his arms and legs are growing thin!’)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
For I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl
And should I then presume?
And should I begin?”
D.H. Lawrence: Hensure Men and
Cocksure Women
• “And this is what makes the cocksureness of women so
dangerous, so devastating.It is really out of scheme, it is not
in relation to the rest of things. So we have the tragedy of
cocksure women. They find, so often, that instead of having
laid an egg, they have laid a vote, or an empty ink-bottle, or
some other absolutely unhatchable object, which means
nothing to them. [. . .] It is all fundamentally disconnected. It is
all an attitude, and one day the attitude will become a weird
cramp, a pain, and then it will collapse. [. . .] Having lived their
life with such utmost strenuousness and cocksureness, she
has missed her life altogether. Nothingness!”
• “Fight for your life, men. Fight your wife out of her own selfconscious pre-occupation with herself. Batter her out of it until
she is stunned.”
• “as the battle of the sexes raged in public
and in private, between stern Victorian
husbands and their maddened wives,
between turn-of-the-century misogynists
and rebellious suffragists, between
modernist no-men and autonomous New
Women, between mid-century he-men and
ambitious independent women, between
contemporary masculinists and secondwave feminists, literary men and women
began to wage war not only with but over
words themselves.”
• (Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar)
• The New Woman was constructed ‘as
simultaneously non-female, unfeminine
and ultra-feminine.’ (Pykett 1992: 140)
• “literary men and women began to wage
war not only with but over words
themselves. Indeed, both the sphere of
literary history and the nature of the
language out of which that history is
constituted became crucial combat zones,
since both the man’s case and the
woman’s cause had to be based not only
on redefinitions of female and male nature
but also on revisions of the aesthetic
assumptions and linguistic presumptions of
patriarchal culture.” (Sandra M. Gilbert and
Susan Gubar)
Major works
The Voyage Out 1915
Night and Day 1919
Jacob’s Room 1923
Mrs Dalloway 1925
To the Lighthouse 1927
Orlando 1928
A Room of One’s Own 1929
The Waves 1931
Flush 1933
The Years 1937
Three Guineas 1938
Between the Acts 1941
Women of the Left Bank
Natalie Barney
Anais Nïn
Djuna Barnes
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)
Edith Wharton
Jean Rhys
Gertrude Stein
• The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
• Three Lives (The Good Anna, Melanctha,
The Gentle Lena)
• “Ada”
• Tender Buttons
• The Making of Americans
‘The Gentle Lena’
“Lena was patient, gentle, sweet and german. She had been a servant
for four years, and had liked it very well.
Lena had been brought from Germany to Bridgepoint by a cousin and
had been in the same place there for four years.
This place Lena had found very good. There was a pleasant,
unexacting mistress and her children, and they all liked Lena very
There was a cook there who scolded Lena a great deal but Lena’a
german patience held no suffering and the good incessant woman
really scolded Lena for Lena’s good. [. . . ]
Lena had good hard work all morning, and on the pleasant, sunny
afternoons she was sent out into the park to sit and watch the little
two year old girl baby of the family.
The other girls, all of them that make the pleasant, lazy crowd, that
watch the children in the sunny afternoons out in the park, all liked
the simple, gentle, german Lena very well.”
Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)
(Kathleen Beauchamp)
Jean Rhys (1890-1979)
The Left Bank and Other Stories (1927)
Voyage in the Dark (1934)
Good Morning, Midnight (1939)
Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
Smile Please (1979)
Peter Childs: Modernism
“any history or definiton insinuates many implicit
exclusions. Modernism has predominantly been
presented in white, male, heterosexist, EuroAmerican middle-class terms, , and any of the
recent challenges to each of these aspects
either reorients the term itself and dilutes the
elitism of a pantheon of modernist writers, or
introduces another one of a plurality of