Learning to speak

Gay Clifford

  • Gya/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism by Mary Daly
    Women’s Press, 485 pp, £8.95, November 1980, ISBN 0 7043 2829 1
  • The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the 19th Century by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar
    Yale, 719 pp, £15.75, October 1980, ISBN 0 300 02286 7
  • Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Margaret Dickie Uroff
    Illinois, 235 pp, £6.95, November 1980, ISBN 0 252 00734 4
  • Women Writing and Writing about Women edited by Mary Jacobus
    Croom Helm, 201 pp, £9.50, October 1980, ISBN 0 85664 745 4

Lawrence felt that Hardy’s Sue Bridehead was ‘no woman’ because ‘that which was female in her she wanted to consume within the male force … in the fire of understanding, of giving utterance. Whereas an ordinary woman knows that she contains all understanding, that she is the unutterable which man must forever continue to try to utter.’ No woman would assent to that last sentence unless she wanted to end up a white goddess, or an ordinary white elephant. (The Kings of Siam used to give a white elephant to hated courtiers, who would then promptly ruin themselves on its costly maintenance.) Yet John Goode notes in Women Writing that Lawrence is here unwittingly acute about something central to sexist ideology: that ‘woman is an image to be uttered’ – uttered, that is, by other people.

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