Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.


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“Standing Female Nude” by Carol Ann Duffy

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Carol Ann Duffy is one of the most important contributors to contemporary British poetry. Duffy is known for granting voices to a wide range of women with varying tones. Oftentimes, her poems take on the form of a monologue and cover themes such as the representation of reality, the construction of self, gender issues, contemporary culture, varying forms of alienation, oppression and social inequality. While she is primarily known for her unique poetry, Duffy has also written numerous plays that have premiered in London. “Standing Female Nude” is conveyed from the perspective of an unfulfilled female nude model. “Standing Female Nude” was the title poem of Duffy’s first collection in 1985, which won the Scottish Arts Council Award.

In the first stanza, the model introduces herself as an objectified woman. The model narrates,”Belly nippe arse in the window light, he drains the colour from me” illuminating the artist’s transformation of her image to someone truly unrecognizable, which further emphasizes her objectification. The narrator continues, “I shall be represented analytically and hung in great museums” (334). In this line, Duffy blatantly highlights the model’s objectification to the reader. The model’s figure has been altered to please society. This idea can be supported by the final line of the poem, “It does not look like me” (335). According to the model, the artist procures some aspects of her figure; however, manipulates the parts he does not like to formulate a work of art. The model ascends into further detail of her objectification when she narrates, “He possesses me on canvas as he dips the brush repeatedly into the paint” (334-335). The speaker does not have any power or control over how she will be portrayed. Through his painting, the model believes that the artist took ownership of her body. The model continues, “When it’s finished he shows me proudly, lights a cigarette” (335). Although the artist and the model are both benefitting form each other to an extent, the artist carries himself in a manner that suggests his superiority to her. The model also states, “These artists take themselves too seriously,” further emphasizing his feelings of superiority over her (335). The model recognizes and detests the artist’s arrogance, concluding the monologue with “I say Twelve francs and get my shawl. It does not look like me” (335). The artist molded the model’s figure into an piece of art that would be aesthetically pleasing to his audience. However, at the conclusion of the session, the model feels out of control and objectified by a man that believes himself superior to her. The model states, “They call it Art,” utilizing irony to emphasize her disgust with the artist’s objectification of her identity (334). Throughout the monologue, the model questions the true meaning of art.

Throughout her poem, Duffy incorporates Marxist philosophies to further enhance the class struggle in France during this time. The insight behind Marxism was philosopher and communist Karl Marx. According to Peter Hayes, “In the Communist Manifesto, Marx presented a polarized view of classes under capitalism…the bourgeoisie owned the means of production, the proletariat did not; the bourgeoisie were employers, the proletariat were their employees. Not only were the bourgeoisie and proletariat diametrically opposed to each other, but other classes were subsumed within this clash of opposites” (100). The model begins by stating, “Six hours like this for a few francs” implying that she feels underpaid for her circumstances and does not enjoy her work (334). The model refers to herself as a “river whore,” implying that she has sold her body in multiple ways (334). Furthermore, states that both the artist and herself are using each other to an extent. The artist uses the model to build a reputation for himself by stating, “Both poor, we make our living how we can” (335). The artist and the model are in a sense collaborating to create a work of art for the Bourgeoisie. The narrator further perpetuates this idea with, “He is concerned with volume, space. I with the next meal,” further insinuating her low socioeconomic status and the necessity of her work for survival. (334) When the Artist states, “You’re getting thin, Madame, this is not good” (334). he emphasizes her low social status. Although the narrator does not enjoy her line of work, she must sell herself in order to survive. As stated above, both the artist and model are benefitting from each other’s work; however, the artist recognizes that he has more potential of success than the model. The artist hopes to climb the social latter and acquire a higher socioeconomic status in society.

At the conclusion of the third and beginning of the fourth stanza, Duffy wrote, “His name is Georges. They tell me he’s a genius” (334). In Angelica Michelis and Antony Rowland’s book ‘Choosing Tough Words’: The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy, “Deryn Rees-Jones suggests that the culprit here is the french artist Georges Braque. Her interpretation can be supported with reference to the last stanza: when the model asks why he paints, the artist replies ‘Because I have to. There’s no choice’, which chimes with Braque’s statement that ‘I did not decide to become a painter, any more than I decided to breathe” (14). Although many critics have attempted to discover which Braque painting Duffy refers to, the most common assumption would be his Cubist painting “Large Nude” (1908). Because the Braque utilized a Cubist style to create his modernist painting, the conclusion of Duffy’s poem can be considered from a different angle. When the model states, “It does not look like me,” the model may have felt critical of her own body. Furthermore, the style the artist utilized to capture her figure would easily make her body appear unrecognizable. Today, the painting remains in a private collection.

Large nude.08

I found a collection of discussion questions to help you further solidify your understanding of Duffy’s poem:

http://www.morelearning.net/KS5/CarolAnnDuffy/Standing%20Female%20Nude%201.pdf

I also included a video from a 2013 Dove campaign pertaining to body image and how women view themselves as opposed to how others view them:

http://www.dailylife.com.au/health-and-fitness/dl-wellbeing/the-body-image-video-every-woman-should-watch-20130417-2hz3v.html

Works Cited:

Duffy, Carol Ann. Standing Female Nude. The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature. Mary K. DeShazer. 1st Edition. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc, 2001. 16-72. Print.

Hayes, Peter. “Marx’s Analysis of the French Class Structure.”Theory and Society 22.1 (1993): 99-123. Print.

Michelis, Angelica, and Antony Rowland. The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy: ‘Choosing Tough Words’., 2003. Print.


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“A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri

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Jhumpa Lahiri is an Indian American women writer whom authored both a novel and several highly acclaimed short story collections. Lahiri’s short story “A Temporary Matter” first appeared in The New Yorker and was later included in her collection of short stories Interpreter of Maladies which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. The stories are centered around the assimilation and the integration of Indian and Indian American in the United States while sustaining their Indian culture. According to Noele Brada-Williams of San Jose State University, “Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work features diverse and unrelated characters, a variety of narrative styles, and no common locale. Indeed, the text even transcends national boundaries, being set in both India and the United States. However, a deeper look reveals the intricate use of pattern and motif to bind the stories together, including the recurring themes of the barriers to opportunities for human communication; community, including marital, extra marital, and parent-child relationships; and the dichotomy of care and neglect” (Noelle Brada-Williams). “A Temporary Matter” presents the failing marriage of the American Indian couple Shukumar and Shoma, six months after Shoma’s miscarriage. Lahiri utilizes quiet details and signifiers to illuminate the destruction of the couple’s marriage. Lahiri limits the story to Shukumar’s third-person point of view to convey Shoba’s character to the audience.

Lahiri provides the reader with quiet details throughout her story to gradually convey the couple’s failing marriage to the reader. When the story first begins, the reader senses uncomfortable tension between the couple through limited conversation with each other. When Shoba and Shukumar discuss the scheduled power outage, Shoba states, “But they should do this sort of thing during the day.” Shoba immediately responds with, “When I’m here, you mean,” (Jhumpa Lahiri). Through this brief dialogue, the reader recognizes the repressed tension between the characters. Instead of addressing the miscarriage, Shukumar conveys his emotions by focusing on the minor or insignificant details of their lives. For instance, when Shoba reminds Shukumar of his upcoming dentist appointment, “He ran his tongue over the tops of his teeth; he’d forgotten to brush them that morning. It wasn’t the first time. He hadn’t left the house at all that day, or the day before. The more Shoba stayed out, the more she began putting in extra hours at work and taking on additional projects, the more he wanted to stay in, not even leaving to get the mail, or to buy fruit or wine at the stores by the trolley stop” (Jhumpa Lahiri). Shukumar’s lethargic attention towards the minor details masks his deep distress over the loss of his child and the distance between him and Shoba.

As the story gains momentum, Lahiri quietly shows the reader how estranged Shoba and Shukumar’s relationship has become. Lahiri wrote, “But nothing was pushing Shukumar. Instead he thought of how he and Shoba had become experts at avoiding each other in their three-bedroom house, spending as much time on separate floors as possible. He thought of how he no longer looked forward to weekends, when she sat for hours on the sofa with her colored pencils and her files, so that he feared that putting on a record in his own house might be rude. He thought of how long it had been since she looked into his eyes and smiled, or whispered his name on those rare occasions they still reached for each other’s bodies before sleeping” (Jhumpa Lahiri). Lahiri depicts a deeply forlorn picture of the couple’s mannerisms towards each other. Through her word choice, Lahiri quietly illuminates Shoba and Shukumar’s marital issues are potentially unrepairable. According to the American Journal of Public Health, “Depressive symptoms are markedly increased in the early weeks following miscarriage. This effect is substantially modified by number of living children, length of gestation at loss, and attitude toward pregnancy” (R. Neugebauer). Although both Shoba and Shukumar felt deeply depressed after Shoba’s miscarriage, the emotional strain for Shoba was almost unbearable.

“At some point in the evening she visited him. When he heard her approach he would put away his novel and begin typing sentences. She would rest her hands on his shoulders and stare with him into the blue glow of the computer screen. “Don’t work too hard,” she would say after a minute or two, and head off to bed. It was the one time in the day she sought him out, and yet he’d come to dread it. He knew it was something she forced herself to do” (Jhumpa Lahiri). The power outage was a brief moment in which the couple reconciled and reflected upon their relationship together. The couple confide in each other, confessing their intimate intrigues and disappointments in each other, breaking the silence and bringing them closer to each other. When the power went out, the couple felt that they could discard their masks confide in one another. Shukumar believed that their evenings together had saved their marriage, however, the power outages were merely a temporary respite to the pain the estranged couple felt.

In Lahiri’s short story, Shoba illuminates more strength than her husband. While Shukumar was in his sixth year of graduate school working on his dissertation, Shoba worked as a copyeditor, providing for both her and her husband. Also, Shoba approached her husband with the idea to share her intimate thoughts with him, taking control of the evenings they spent together under the candlelight. Finally, when the power was turned back on, Shoba turned on the lights and announced, “I’ve been looking for an apartment and I’ve found one,”  concluding the game and their marriage. (Jhumpa Lahiri). Throughout Lahiri’s short story, Shoba illuminated strength over her husband. Although both Shukumar and Shoba realized that their relationship was unreconcilable, Shukumar was unable to approach his wife. Instead, Shukumar hid behind the insignificant details of their lives together. Ultimately, Shoba assumed the initiative to end their relationship and move on.

The temporary matter in Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story could not salvage the Shukmar and Shoba’s marriage. “A Temporary Matter” by Lahiri illuminates the struggle to overcome the loss of a child. Lahiri utilizes quiet details to enhance and drive her story.

In 2011, Lahiri visited the University at Buffalo as a guest speaker for the universities’ Distinguished Speakers Series. I have provided a clip below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP33tPFw47E

Works Cited:

Brada-Williams, Noelle. “Reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” as a Short Story Cycle.” MELUS 29.3/4 (2004): 451-64. Print.

Neugebauer, R., et al. “Determinants of Depressive Symptoms in the Early Weeks After Miscarriage.” American Journal of Public Health 82.10 (1992): 1332-9. Print.


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“Sex Without Love” by Sharon Olds

Sharon Oldssharon-olds

“How do they do it, the ones who make love without love?” Sharon Olds asks the reader to contemplate in her poem “Sex Without Love” (561). Sharon Olds has been celebrated as one of America’s most forthright poets at chronicling familial and erotic relationships. Throughout Olds’ poetry, she illuminates a commitment to writing of the body to expose a variety of difficult subjects. Through Olds’ use of irony, free verse, and metaphor, the poet is able to affectively communicate the negligence and irresponsibility of sex without love. Furthermore, Olds’ explores physical desire, procreation of unwanted children, and the mention of religious affiliations in hopes of answering the question she poses for the audience in the first sentence of the poem.

Olds immediately directs the reader into the thought of ‘sex without love’ by posing the question in the opening line of the poem. After posing the serious question, Olds threads her poem with ironic phrases, illuminating an understated disapproving tone that remains continuous throughout the piece. Through her word choice and structure, these seemingly beautiful elements are transformed into fallacies that highlight the mistakes of partners that partake in sex without love. Olds utilizes the seemingly beautiful metaphor, “Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice” ironically to highlight the fallacies of her proposition (561). Although dancers and ice-skaters are seemingly beautiful and flawless, these performers can be visualized as creators of artistic illusions. Olds’ representation of ice-skaters in her metaphor also signifies that sex without love is cold and detached. Olds’ comparison of sexual partners without love to dancers illuminates that the act of sex without love is merely an illusion of love and happiness.

Furthermore, Olds’ suggests that the driving force of the passion is purely physical. Towards the end of the poem, Olds presents the metaphor of a great runner: “they are like great runners: they know they are alone with the road surface, the cold, the wind, the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardiovascular health–just factors, like the partner in the bed, and not the truth” (562). Olds’ exploits the irony in this metaphor to further emphasize the importance placed upon physicality in sex encounters with a loveless foundation. Olds’ insertion of the dancer and the ice-skater could also further emphasize (or exhaust, rather) the physicality of sex without love. Olds’ utilizes these physically fit types of individuals to illuminate the significance of physical fitness and attraction, and how these elements lead to desire.

Also, Olds incorporates images of undesired childbirth into her poem. Oftentimes, when couples are in love, they make love with intentions of procreation. Oftentimes, when partners engage in sexual activity without any emotional connection, they have no desire to bear children together. Furthermore, sexual partners may completely disregard the possibility of creating a child through their sexual encounters. In the sixth line of “Sex Without Love” Olds’ wrote, “wet as the children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away” (562). Olds’ criticizes the irresponsibility of creating a child neither parent desires. Olds’ utilizes detached imagery to further emphasize her disapproval. Ultimately, this line in Olds’ poem illuminates the selfishness and negligence of unintentional procreation and emphasizes the fallacies of sex without love.

Olds also incorporates religious affiliations with sex without love into her poem to further emphasize the argument she makes within her poem. Sex without marriage in religion has always been frowned upon. For instance, in Catholicism sex without marriage has been argued for years. According to Susan A. Ross, “The most highly debated controversy [the theology of marriage] centered on the adequacy of personalist criteria for marriage and the challenge to the prevailing scholastic definition, which saw procreation as primary” (Susan A. Ross). In Olds’ poem, she wrote, “How do they come to the come to the come to the God come to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them, light rising slowly as steam off their joined skin? These are the true religious,the purists, the pros, the ones who will not accept a false Messiah, love the priest instead of the God” (562). Olds poses a similar question to her first in the opening line. Olds insinuates that those whom partake in sex without love assume that they are accepting a false love under false pretenses. She continues to insinuate that they love the body instead of the soul, as suggested above.

Olds’ peom “Sex Without Love” serves as a social criticism of partners engaging in sexual activity without any lasting emotional connection. Olds’ strongly believes that individuals should not partake in sex without feeling great amounts of love for their partner. Olds concludes the poem with, “Just factors, like the partner in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe against its own best time” (562). In her poem, she highlights the fallacies of sex without love. Olds’ suggests that the driving force of their passion is purely a physical desire, and highlights the cold. Overall, Olds’ illuminates that sex without love is an immoral and artificial reconstruction of love. Although Olds’ message to the Although the message within the poem is blunt and harsh, Olds is able to use beautiful words and phrases to describe the seemingly affectionate act of sex without love.

Included are two readings of Sharon Olds’ poem “Sex Without Love,” because hearing the spoken words can transform and bring life to the poem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k6OQw0apxg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTQYRc7VBnw

And finally, here is an interview with Sharon Olds discussing the life instilled into her poetry:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3O3X3BVhfE

Works Cited:

DeShazer, Mary K. The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature. 1st Edition. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational   Publishers Inc. , 2001. 16-72. Print.

Ross, Susan A. “The Bride of Christ and the Body Politic: Body and Gender in Pre-Vatican II Marriage Theology.” The Journal of   Religion 71.3 (1991): 345-61. Print.


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The Rest Cure In Relation To “The Yellow Wallpaper”

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) whom is most famous for her authorization of The Yellow Wallpaper (1891) was a women writer ahead of her time. Gilman creates a horrifying image of entrapment in the short story, illustrating a semi-autobiographical picture of a young woman undergoing the rest cure treatment by her husband, whom is also her psychiatrist. Gilman exploited the rest cure in The Yellow Wallpaper to alert other women of the damaging effects of the treatment.    

In 1887 after the birth of her daughter, Gilman became severely depressed and sought treatment for nervous exhaustion by psychiatrist Silas Weir Mitchell. Mitchell’s rest cure consisted of bed rest, isolation, overfeeding, and massage/electricity on her muscles. When Gilman realized that Mitchell’s treatment worsened her depression, she left both her husband and doctor. Several years later, Gilman wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a reaction to her physician Mitchell’s prescribed rest cure. In her essay “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper?” Gilman wrote, “Being naturally moved to rejoicing by this narrow escape, I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper with its embellishments and additions to carry out the ideal (I never had hallucinations or objections to my mural decorations) and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it” (Charlotte Perkins Gilman). 

To contextualize the story, Gilman visualized her husband and her physician as the same person. Gilman illuminated that during her treatment, both men imprisoned her and treated her with intolerable cruelty. Gilman felt that both men manipulated her and suffocated her artistic integrity during the time she underwent treatment. In Gilman’s story, the narrator said, “John is a physician, and perhaps—I wouldn’t say it to a living soul of course, but this dead paper, and a great relief to my mind—perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster” (265). Gilman illuminates that neither her husband nor her physician listened to her when she confided in them during her treatment. Furthermore, the narrator said, “It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so” (269). In this statement, Gilman highlights both men’s behavior towards her during her treatment. In the story, John did not listen to the narrator when she told him that she felt that the treatment was ineffective. In this passage she also criticizes submissive women. The narrator’s statement appears very obedient and agreeable which makes the narrator look subservient. However, John was silencing the narrator because he had no respect for her. When the narrator attempts to approach John about returning home, he responds with, “What is it little girl?” and “Why, darling,” coddling her and illuminating his lack of respect for her (269-270). He continues, “The repairs are not done at home, and I can’t possibly leave town just now. Of course if you were in any danger I could and would, but you really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not” (270). John does not listen to her and continues to ignore her pleas. John’s behavior towards the narrator conveys his nonexistent concern for her health and happiness. Furthermore, he does not want to be proven wrong by a woman, therefore, enforces reverse psychology, in hopes that she will discover the fault is within her, not him.

Gilman highlights the narrator’s entrapment to further emphasize her own personal struggle. In the story the narrator said, “I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs, that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the windows, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings; but John wouldn’t hear of it” (265). Although she detested the room, she was trapped by her husband and had no means of escape. Gilman continued, “It is a big airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunlight galore. It was nursery first, and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge, for the windows are barred for little children and there are rings and things in the walls” (266). The narrator was coddled and pampered as if she were a child; however, John did not attend to her when she needed him. In fact, he rarely attended to her. Instead, he left her alone in a nursery with barred windows. When he was around, he treated her as if she were a child, not a woman. This treatment reflects the statements he says to her throughout the story. In The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman illustrates the disrespect both her husband and psychiatrist had for her through the characterization of John.

Gilman was not the only woman writer whom underwent treatment for the rest cure. According to Suzanne Poirier, “By the time he (Mitchell) died in 1914, the Weir Mitchell Rest Cure had been translated into four other languages and had committed disciples around the world, despite the growing reputation of Sigmund Freud” (Suzanne Poirier). However, Gilman was not the only woman writer prescribed to the rest cure. Poirer recognized that other well-established women writers were also prescribed (and later criticized) his treatment. According to Poirier, “Mitchell’s treatment of Jane Addams, Winifred Howells, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and the use of his treatment on Virginia Woolf caused cries of protest from all these women or their families” (Suzanne Poirer). When Mitchell’s treatment had expanded overseas, Woolf was prescribed Mitchell’s rest cure. Similar to Gilman and other women writers, Woolf criticized his treatment methods, also suggesting that her depression had worsened. Woolf deliberately mentions the rest cure in her novel Mrs. Dalloway through both autobiographical and fictional recounts. Mrs. Dalloway serves as a warning of the fatalities of utilizing medicalization for repressing grief. 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story has had such an artistic impact on creative spirits alike. Here is a link to The Yellow Wallpaper R&D Trailer, which is an experimental dance piece choreographed by Paul Chantry: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEP-k1d0skE

And don’t forget…

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Works Cited:

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper.” Forerunner. Oct 1913:

271-272. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. <http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015014168648;seq=279;view=1up;num=271&gt;.

Poirier, Suzanne. “The Weir Mitchell Rest Cure: Doctor and Patients.”Women’s Studies 10.1 (1983): 15-40. Print.

Sobin, C., and H. A. Sackeim. “Psychomotor Symptoms of Depression.” The American journal of psychiatry 154.1 (1997): 4. Print.


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“Chloe Liked Olivia”

Virginia Woolf

While Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was known for her revolutionary modernist fiction, her writings also secured her status as a pivotal figure in women’s literary history. Woolf delivers the comprehensive essay “A Room of One’s Own,” as a lecture to a female audience at Newnham College, Cambridge, encouraging women to “have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think,” (71). In chapter five of her essay, Woolf proposes the concept of a friendship between two women. While reading Mary Carmichael’s fictional novel Life’s Adventures, Woolf is interrupted by the statement “Chloe liked Olivia” (56). Although Woolf’s statement appears simple, ‘Chloe’ and ‘Olivia’ represent a proposition for the renovation of relationships between women. Unless the relationship between the two women was a feud of sorts, the relationship of two women was not discussed in literature. Oftentimes, the relationships between women in literature (especially in the literary works of men) illuminate women detesting each other. Woolf continues by stating, “Chloe liked Olivia perhaps for the first time in literature. Cleopatra did not like Octavia. And how completely Antony and Cleopatra would have been altered had she done so!” (56). While this is not the first appearance of William Shakespeare in Woolf’s essay, Woolf dissects the tragedy from a diverse perspective. Woolf’s re-imagination of Shakespeare’s tragic play Antony and Cleopatra illuminates that perhaps the tragedy was the inability of the female characters to formulate a friendship.

Woolf also notes, “When a woman speaks to women she should have something very unpleasant up her sleeve. Women are hard on women. Women dislike women,” (70). Woolf’s proclamation acknowledges the presence of hatred between women. However, Woolf ultimately criticizes these women for continuously chastising each other over the years. When declaring that “Chloe liked Olivia,” Woolf calls for unity between the sex of women as a whole. Woolf illuminates her belief that the banning together of women would facilitate the women’s rights movement.

Delving further into the textual meaning, the statement “Chloe liked Olivia” is open to interpretation. Clearly, Woolf believed that women could be friends in literature, however, Woolf’s sexuality has often been discussed in relation to her writings. Critics have often speculated whether Woolf was referencing her own sexuality within the text. Woolf wrote, “The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their subtlety. I like their anonymity. I like–but I must not run on this way. That cupboard there,– you say it holds clean table napkins only; but what if Sir Archibald Bodkin were concealed among them? (70). Through this passage, one may claim that Woolf’s sexuality spoke volumes in comparison to her words. Although Woolf was married, during the late 1920’s she indulged in a romantic relationship with author Vita Sackville-West. Woolf was also known for her admiration and support of Radclyffe Hall during the banning of her groundbreaking lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness (1928). Before proclaiming the words “Chloe liked Olivia,” Woolf referenced a significant official in her essay when she wrote, “Are there no men present? Do you promise me that behind that red curtain over there the figure of Sir Chartres Biron is not concealed? We are all women, you assure me?” (56). Sir Chartres Biron was the presiding magistrate at the trial for obscenity of Hall, pertaining to her novel. Because Woolf believed in Hall’s work, she included the acerbity statement in her paper, indulging in the wit.

With Woolf’s modernist experimentation with the fluidity of her language and clearly established ideals, her essay “A Room of One’s Own” has become one of the first feminist literary essays. In her essay, Woolf contemplates the substance and harmony of friendships between women in literature, and the friendships women could formulate without feuds perpetuated by men. Furthermore, Woolf suggests that if women start writing, perhaps women would write about the friendships they possess with other women. The statement “Chloe liked Olivia” was merely the seed Woolf planted. In this section of her essay, Woolf desired for women alike to blossom and potentially write about their developing friendships.

Like I said, since Woolf wrote her essay, the statement “Chloe liked Olivia” has been interpreted in many different ways. Furthermore, the ideal established by Woolf has been included and contemplated in various contemporary art forms. Here is a trailer for an experimental short film, in which the writer has interpreted Chloe and Olivia to be lovers.

Chloe Likes Olivia Teaser Trailer

Also, the ’90’s band Two Nice Girls named their third album “Chloe liked Olivia” after Woolf’s essay. Woolf’s influence remains prevalent even in today’s society.

Two Nice Girls- The Queer Song


Works Consulted:

Gadeken, Sara. “Gender, Empire, and Nation in Sarah Fielding’s Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 39.3 (1999): 523-38. Print.

Sommella, Laraine Anne. “Radclyffe Hall’s ‘the Well of Loneliness’: Subversive Transgression.” 1994. Print.