I also opted to focus on Woolf, but I will try to venture from what has already been stated.
“And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. There is an attempt at it in Diana of the Crossways. They are confidantes, of course, in Racine and the Greek tragedies. They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that; and how little can a man know even of that when he observes it through the black or rosy spectacles which sex puts upon his nose” (Woolf, 899).
This specific instance did come up in the class discussion yesterday, yet it strikes an unnerving chord, that women in literature were never granted any semblance of autonomy or recognition as individual people, but rather existed only in relation to others. Not only does the literary world – the entire world, really – function from the loss of female novelists whose work was never known, but the very existence of women in literature bears a peripheral role. Reading through the previous posts Shakespeare has appeared several times (per usual), and while a strong case could be made in favor of female characters in his plays (namely the comedies), to what extent does Desdemona’s sole function serve to heighten Othello’s masculinity? Not only were women clearly denied the opportunity to create in any aspect; they faced further marginalization, as they were not granted any form of agency – even on the written page.
Male and female relations are inextricably linked, but removing from women any inkling of autonomy or recognition as a separate, thinking, breathing individual – as a person, now seems unfathomable. Yet, it remained the norm, not only accepted but expected, in literature, sculpting and influencing the literary world even as it’s known today.