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- Showalter, E; Moi, T. "Elaine showalter a literature of their own." Feminist Literary Criticism. January, 2014, 24-52. [doi]
© 1991, Taylor & Francis. All rights reserved. ELAINE SHOWALTER A Literature of Their Own Elaine Showalter's A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte' to Lessing (1977) traces a history of women's writing through three phases - the 'feminine' from 1840-80, the 'feminist' from 1880-1920 and the 'female' from 1920 onwards. The two extracts included here are from the female phase, from Showalter's chapter on Woolf, entitled 'Woolf and the Flight into Androgyny'. The chapter title is suggestive. Showalter finds Woolf's concern with an androgynous ideal escapist, a way of avoiding confrontation with her family, her critics and readers, her social class. Similarly, Woolf's 'room of one's own' has certain creative and protective possibilities, but is more often viewed by Showalter as a sign of Woolf's retreat from a necessary interaction with the material world and with her own psychosexual dilemmas. The section of the chapter excluded focuses on Woolf's sexual and psychiatric history, relating her mental crises to biological factors - the onset of menstruation, her childlessness, the menopause - and to her relationship with her husband, Leonard. The link is not one of crude biologism - women because of their biological make-up are periodically unstable and hysterical - but one that points to the excessive and irreconcilable pressures that Woolf felt at such moments of crisis. Fuelled by a feminism that believes in a forthright declaration of one's needs as a woman, Showalter contends that androgyny, private space, aestheticism are inadequate answers to the problems of sexual politics. (See Introduction, pp. 7-11).