THE FEMINIST VOICE IN THE 20TH CENTURY

Open Access
Author:
Young, Bailey Marion
Area of Honors:
English
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Manini Samarth, Thesis Supervisor
  • Marcy North, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Feminism
  • Anne Sexton
  • Audre Lorde
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Feminist Voice
  • 20th Century Literature
  • Female Writers
  • Poetry
  • Stories
  • Essays
  • English
Abstract:
For centuries, men dominated academia and defined literary rules by which all scholars operated, and more specifically, male scholars. Men dominated in all areas outside of the home, so naturally the realm of scholarship belonged to them as well. As the 20th century approached, a few women did break through this gender-constructed wall, but they wrote under pseudonyms until more and more women found their way into the literary pages. Gradually women began writing under their real names but were heavily scrutinized because of the widely-held consensus that only men, who were presumed to be more inherently intelligent, were capable of writing fiction. Once the feminist movement surfaced and female scholars shattered the literary glass ceiling, however, the feminist voice became clearer and more definable in the works of 20th century writers like Virginia Woolf, Audre Lorde and Anne Sexton. In analyzing poetry, stories and essays by these three feminist writers, I found common threads amongst them that allowed me to explore the ways in which they harnessed their creative energies to address women’s issues in their works. Since literary critics have not yet unanimously agreed upon a clear definition of the term “a woman’s voice,” I offer a viable elucidation so that both 20th century feminist literature and future works by women might be investigated and classified not only to provide additional insight but also to lay the foundation for a new categorization of literature.