Thursday, March 14, 2013

How close are we to androgyny?

Interviewed about the newly announced longlist for the Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize), Natasha Walter, one of the judges, says that she was struck by the number of women writing from male viewpoints. Like Telegraph writer Sameer Rahim noting a similarity in the Costa winners, she sees this as possible evidence of a move towards the fulfilment of Virginia Woolf's wish for women writers to be seen as androgynous rather than as women. Others, however, including me (see this post), suspect a different implication. Kira Cochrane writes:
If a woman adopts a male perspective, it seems their story is still more likely to be respected, and read as universal. The author Naomi Alderman is well aware of this bias, and notes that the women who have won the Booker include: "Hilary Mantel writing about a strong man [Thomas Cromwell]. Pat Barker writing about the first world war and men's experiences. AS Byatt, yes there's a woman in it, but actually a lot of Possession is first-person writing as a man. Let's look at their names: Hilary, Pat and AS. These are names a man can read on the train and you don't necessarily immediately know that they're reading [a book by] a woman."

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