Feminism & the 21st-century fiction
Over @ The Independent there is this interesting discussion whether feminism has any importance for writers of this century or is it a thing of the past. How writers deal with femisnist values in their writings. How is the gender approach to feminism and how is this perceived. Furthermore Arifa Akbar asks notable writers if they write as a woman or as a feminist.
Is feminism relevant to 21st-century fiction? As ‘Granta’ dedicates its new issue to the ‘F word’, Arifa Akbar asks authors about the sexual politics of storytelling.
The year that feminism entered British literary fiction is a debatable one: some refer to the watershed moment in 1962, when Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook dramatised women’s interior conflict between work, motherhood, love and sex as well as the hitherto taboo drama of the menstrual cycle. It broke such new ground that its author was labelled an Angry Young Man, in line with the literary movement of the day. It was, in fact, a prototype feminist novel at the vanguard of the Angry Young Women’s wave of fiction that drew on centuries of unrecorded domestic servitude.
It is harder to pin down the year feminism left the field of fiction. Somewhere along the line, it was tacitly agreed that novelists had outgrown the narrative with its uneasy marriage between fiction and polemic.
Revisiting the debate on women’s writing and feminism might now be considered a redundant exercise in an age where books written by women extend across genres and jostle for literary prizes and front-of-store positioning. The 1970s dictum of “writing by women, about women, for women” is certainly a historical anachronism. Philosophical arguments about writing the body are unfashionable with critical theorists and the question of whether women write as gendered beings is dismissed for failing to appreciate the governing role of the imagination in the writing process.
Yet questions, and imbalances, persist. Just when the annual debate over whether we need a women’s literary award comes around again as the Orange Prize prepares to announce its winner next month, so Australia, ironically, begins to consider establishing a prize based on the Orange model, such is the lack of recognition for Antipodean women’s fiction.
Against this backdrop, Granta magazine will publish The F Word (£12.99) next Thursday: an issue dedicated to reflections on gender, power and feminism, in which Lydia Davis, Rachel Cusk, Jeanette Winterson, AS Byatt, Helen Simpson and Téa Obreht, among others, write wide-ranging pieces on women’s places in the world, the place of feminism within storytelling and shortfalls of the Women’s Movement of the 1970s. John Freeman, editor of Granta, feels this latter aspect is a positive outcome: “I think political movements must always critique their own legacies – otherwise they become cults. Writers in the issue are doing what’s natural after decades of believing in a cause – they are observing the victories and defeats, and taking stock of how this idea has infiltrated life and culture.”
Read full article @ The Independent