The place of women in literature (part 2)
Vivienne Haywood Eliot,
English writer, author of a series of short stories.
Her literary legacy was praised by Bertrand Russell, Gore Vidal, and her lyrics were praised by Virginia Woolf and Ezra pound. But in search of Vivienne’s creative legacy, you will again come across the figure of a man. She used to be called not a writer, but the “mad Muse” of the great poet Thomas Stearns Eliot.
At the beginning of the marriage, the jealous man generously allowed his companion to write. Then she even managed to publish in the Criterion magazine under several pseudonyms, whose lyrical characters had different styles and areas of interest — just like the famous heteronyms of the poet Fernando Pessoa.
Later, Eliot would write how much he hated chick lit (that is, women’s prose), and would not only throw out Vivien’s diaries, but demonize her abilities in front of her friends.
Fragments of Vivien’s few surviving recordings are, of course, in the Thomas Stearns Eliot Foundation. It’s as if the whole essence of the poet’s relationship to his wife has been transmuted into a Foundation whose name alone is intended to bury someone else’s legacy. And what a mystical and frightening coincidence that Vivien — like Jane Bowles-had spent a considerable period of time in a mental institution.
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald,
American writer, author of a novel and diaries, from which he borrowed the ideas of Frances Scott Fitzgerald.
Zelda’s literary value was not realized until after her death. She was adored by the new York Bohemians of the beginning of the last century: from ballet masters to art dealers (but Ernest Hemingway hated her). However, at that time, few people knew about Zelda-the writer, because her husband Francis was more cunning than all literary husbands. While giving his doll-wife sumptuous dresses from Patu and sending them to dance, he almost verbatim wrote out entire passages from her diaries, “screwing” them into his heroines. And, by the way, he still did it in such a way that Zelda’s confessional, elastic text turned into a description of the impenetrable idiots of his novels.
Zelda’s legacy — dozens of voices from novels celebrating one of the most shocking beauties of the jazz era, novels dedicated to her by her husband Francis Scott Fitzgerald, the play Clothes for a Summer Hotel by Tennessee Williams,” the Song of Alabama ” by Gilles Leroy, TV series, movies-but where is her own voice?
The result of life — a fire in a Highland hospital, where Zelda was locked in a room waiting for another dose of electroconvulsive therapy, the infernal agony of being engulfed in flames, one novel, letters and diaries stolen by a male writer — and one miraculously unburned slipper.
The novel that changed everything (or not)
Much of the change in literature we owe to one novel – “Yellow Wallpaper”. North-East US, the end of the nineteenth century. For a long time, Charlotte Perkins Gilman has been struggling with postpartum psychosis. Around the same time, an infant but powerful school of neuropathology, headed by Dr. Silas Mitchell, was being built in the United States. If these two had not met, it is possible that women would have been weaned for a long time from reading and the literary trade, and at the first disobedience would have been driven into four walls.
Dr. Mitchell (and the rest of the society) believed that women-fragile, sickly creatures-think bad, so the recommended time for brain stimulation was strictly limited: only two hours a day.
By a happy coincidence, Charlotte Gilman’s husband heard about Silas’s miraculous “treatment” (regular bed rest 24/7) and brought his wife to the care of a specialist.
Gilman didn’t manage to stay in this mode for more than three months. Throwing back the suffocating blanket, she blurted out a short story about a woman, isolation, and mutating yellow Wallpaper. The plot of “Yellow Wallpaper”, at first glance, is simple. Jane suffers after giving birth and, being locked in a room by her husband (solely for the purpose of relaxation), spends hours looking at the crazy, writhing Wallpaper. However, there is a nuance: sometimes the patterns show the image of a woman, and judging by the scratched walls, a madwoman was once held here. By the last day of summer, after reading all the information from the Wallpaper, Jane strips them and by some mystical transgression, either goes mad, or finds herself — and thereby is released.
It is said that “Wallpaper” was intended just for Dr. Mitchell, challenging the suppression of the intellectual principle, psychiatric power and the triumph of stereotypes about the mental health of women. It was also said that the neurologist was so shocked by the Novella that he radically changed the method of treatment — but this is inaccurate. In any case, this is what is commonly thought in feminist discourse, which claims that “Wallpaper” at once shook the inherently male institution of psychiatry and staked out a place for feminist literary studies.