Women and Literature

Women and Literature


Table of Contents
1. Introduction.
2. Historically Established Role of Women in Society.
3. Flourishing of Women’s Writing.
4. Progress of Women in American Prose.
5. Distinguished Women among American Poets.
6. Contribution of Women into the Literature for Children.
7. Conclusion.
8. Bibliography.


Women have always struggled for equal rights with men. The feminist movement commenced several centuries ago and lasts till our days. With the course of time women managed to prove that can be as good as men almost in all spheres of life. Due to all the efforts and social activity women altered the preconceive opinion towards themselves and achieved significant results.
Today women succeeded almost in all spheres of life. Literature is not an exception. Modern literature covers all topics and does not make any difference between male and female authors. However, several centuries ago the situation was almost contrary. The flourishing of women’s writing happened in the eighteenth century, when more and more publications of women’s works appeared. At those times women tended to elucidate topics, connected solely with women and their life. Writing helped them to prove themselves, to express their points of view of some social issues, perhaps to give a piece of advice to others, basing on their own opinion. For a long time women did not have favorable conditions for prolific writing, having it as a hobby and not being paid for it, depending on men and without any support. “Their jobs were mainly to cook clean, sew, take care of the children and keep the house in order. They were treated as a material possession rather than a human being that could think and act for themselves, and were generally looked upon as a decorative member of the household. Women were robbed of their true identities…” (Walters, 12) in order to attain their aim and to publish their works women had to hide under masculine or bisexual pseudonyms, such as George Sand (Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin) or Currer Bell (Charlotte Bronte). With the course of time the role of women in society changed and they won the recognition in the literary circles due to their talent and diligence.
So, women’s contribution in the advance of literature and the popularization of female subject in literature is indisputable. Such works as “The Female Advocate: A Poem Occasioned by Reading Mr Duncombe’s Feminead” written by Mary Scott in the eighteenth century and “A Room of One's Own” by Virginia Woolf drew attention to the role of women in society and, particularly, in literature. Moreover, it was Virginia Woolf who devoted many her works to the research of the conditions of women’s writing and expressed the opinion that “the woman needs 500 pounds a year and a room of her own in order to be able to write. Money and peace, symbolized by these two requirements, are the necessary preconditions for every creative process, regardless the gender; however, the inequality between men and women meant that difficulties were much more formidable for women.” (Woolf, 30) She claimed that in order to prosper women had to “kill the monster”, that is to break all the stereotypes that limited their freedom and made them the possessions of men. (Woolf, 34)
For a long time the phenomenon of women’s writing was considered unstable and caused many disputes. Numerous achievements of women in the literary circles proved the inconsistence of these opinions. The progress of women in American literature can be a bright example. Among ten American Noble Prize winners for literature two are women, Toni Morrison and Pearl Buck. Toni Morrison, most famous for her books “Song of Solomon”, “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye” was the first African American Nobel Prize winner for literature. In 1988 she got the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel “Beloved” and in 2001 she was proclaimed one of "The 30 Most Powerful Women in America”. Her books are praised for very vivid images of African Americans and detailed description of their lives. Pearl Buck is well-known for her books about China and Chinese rural life. She also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1931 for her work “The Good Earth” that is considered her best novel out of more than 85 books of various genres.
Women writers succeeded both in prose and in poetry. American poetry of the second half of the twentieth century acquired such distinguished authors as Mona Van Duyn, Amy Clampitt, May Swenson, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Audre Lorde, Rita Dove, Maxine Kumin, Louise Gluck, Carolyn Kizer, Denise Levertov, Jorie Graham, many of which became Pulitzer Prize Winners.
It is essential to define the contribution of women into the literature for children. Such worldwide famous names as Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Astrid Lindgren, J. K. Rowling belong to women who entered the literary world as classics of infantile literature. J. K. Rowling, particularly, became the first writer who earned a billion of US-dollars due to her books. Her fantasy series about Harry Potter became a best-seller and was translated into 65 languages. By her books J.K. Rowling fascinated not only children but thousands of grown-ups as well. Her books get awards and are sold before their official release.
To make a conclusion, I believe that finally women realized their ambitions. Nowadays women writers are absolutely equal with men, they get acknowledgement on equal terms and are free to write on any topic. Their books are as much read as men’s and they get numerous prizes for their fruitful work. Women’s concerns are still an important issue in women’s literature, nevertheless female points of view on political, social and cultural questions are appreciated. Without women the world of literature would be incomplete and short of masterpieces that radically changed the established views.


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