Jump to page content
The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

Recent Posts

Twitter @alibrown18

New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

A Problem of Her Own

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I am reading A Literature of Their Own. Elaine Showalter has justed quoted George Egerton (aka Mary Chavelita Dunne) complaining philosophically about the challenge of writing as a woman in an established male-dominated genre. Quite conventionally, she complains that:
I realised that in literature, everything had been better done by man than woman could hope to emulate. There was only one small plot left to tell: the terra incognita of herself, as she knew herself to be, not as a man liked to imagine her - in a word, to give herself away, as man had given himself away in his writings
And then this irony, apparently inintentioned, bursts into her essay:
Unless one is androgynous, one is bound to look at life through the eyes of one's sex, to toe the limitations imposed on one by its individual psychological functions. I came too soon.
Poor lady! Though this seems a candid admission of a sexual problem of prematurity, in fact she intends, rationally, to suggest how she is an historical anachronism, as she goes on to note how her late nineteenth-century novels with their stories of repression neatly predict the analyses of Freud.

The double-entendre is the stuff of Shakespeare and Donne, but it is wholly incongruous when encountered in a work of literary criticism. Written in 1932 (in "A Keynote to Keynotes"), it is all the more humorous when it so sharply illuminates the reserved innocence of a pre-war age, against the lewd sexualisation of the dirty minds of the twentieth century, of which mine is clearly no exception. But although "cumming" may seem a stock phrase of the modern porn writer, and hardly to be expected in a novelist seventy years ago, in fact the word has a 350 year old etymology as another meaning for orgasm, though it seems this was not the significance Egerton meant the word to assume here.

Labels: ,

Posted by Alistair at 4:26 pm


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

The content of this website is Copyright © 2009 using a Creative Commons Licence. One term of this copyright policy is that Plagiarism is theft. If using information from this website in your own work, please ensure that you use the correct citation.

Valid XHTML 1.0. Level A conformance icon, W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. | Labelled with ICRA.