No writer of fiction escapes from herself. Although many feign detachment from the mortal “I,” our hearts and souls are encoded in the characters we create. This is both a blessing and a curse.
It is widely accepted that most first novels are essentially autobiographical in nature. My own first novel, The General Paralysis of Sanity is a perfect example of the phenonenom. However, despite my subsequent writing ventures, my “self” remains a frequent visitor to the texts I produce. This is both a blessing and a curse.
My favourite twentieth century poet and, I believe, probably the greatest exponent of the form, is T.S. Eliot. Eliot proposed that great poetry should be detached from the limitations of the poet’s ego. The consequence of this principle haunts the literary establishment today. Thus, confessional poetry is often stereotyped as a secondary form and connoted with feminisation. A Life Reborn, my second book is a collection of confessional poetry.
I am a writer. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Engaging in a conversation with a customer in the charity book shop in which I volunteer to work, I touched upon a subject which demanded further exploration. For, after mentioning that the central character in, and narrative voice of, the novel I have recently had published is male, he asked if I felt that I, as a woman, could accurately represent the male perspective? I replied that I had tried to and that it was, now, incumbent upon the reader to decide to what extent I had been successful.
Ruminating about the subject, reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s assertion in her essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” that the best writers possess a form of mental androgeny which transcends the restrictions of gender and penetrates the essential consciousness of the characters, whom they have created. Arguably, the actual representation of language in a text is as relatable to the author’s gender as the plot.
Virginia Woolf cited Dorothy Richardson as the originator of the, “women’s sentence.” Richardson’s rejection of traditional linguistic structure signifying, also, a rejection of the patriarchal order, by which the novel had previously been defined. Elaborating upon Richardson’s semiotic magicianship, Woolf ventured beyond the battleground of content into the arena of form. Her defining moment, the novel, Mrs Dalloway, whose action takes place during a single day, eschewed linear causality and embraced a form of elliptical progression which was at odds with the traditional male produced novel.
Although, at first glimpse the concept of the women’s sentence may appear to be contingent on a belief in biological determinism, Woolf did not propose that gender differences were inherent. Rather, she looked outwards into a society which not only produced, but reinforced difference. Thus, men and women were not born different, society reproduced our differences. Reflective of this was the pursuit of a women’s sentence; the pursuit of a woman’s voice.
AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON, MY DEBUT NOVEL, “THE GENERAL PARALYSIS OF SANITY,” BY LOUISE M. HART