A discussion of the representation of gender in Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse against the background of Sherry Ortner's theory


Essay, 2004

9 Pages, Grade: 1,8


Excerpt

Contents

1 Introduction

2.1 Sherry Ortner’s gender theory
2.2 Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse
2.3 The representation of gender in the novel

3 Conclusion

Bibliography

1 Introduction

Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse was first published in 1927, and like the author’s following books, it was facing towards modernity. Woolf picked out many central themes of modernism, such as time, new narrative techniques and the question of gender, and merged them into a novel flowing as a stream of consciousness, giving the reader an insight into the inner thoughts of various characters. As Auerbach puts it, “a woman’s daydreams”, were in fact made “the paradigm for modernist conceptions of fragment, detail and randomness”[1].

2.1 Sherry Ortner’s gender theory

In her essay “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?”, published in 1972, Ortner analyses the universal secondary status of women. She proves the existence of this status with actual facts and details of women’s activities, powers and contributions and with specific ideologies and social arrangements. As evidence Ortner regards firstly the explicit devaluing of women and their tasks, roles, products and social milieus in informants’ statements and elements of cultural ideology; secondly the symbolic devices such as the attribution of defilement; and thirdly the social-structural arrangements excluding women from participation in realms of the highest social powers, such as the highest political councils or sacred rites.

In Ortner’s view, biological determinism is the old argument to explain female subordination, a position which is rejected by anthropologists, because they consider biology irrelevant for the social difference between male and female. Biological differences only take on the significance of superiority opposed to inferiority within culturally defined value systems.

Ortner tries to find reasons for the fact that women are seen as closer to nature. She states that women’s bodies and their functions are regarded as more involved with species life, whereas men’s physiology frees them more of the time to take up the projects of culture. Furthermore, women’s bodies and their functions place them in social roles, which are in turn considered to be at a lower order of the social process than men’s, and therefore imposed. Women’s traditional roles give them a different psychological structure, which is also seen as being closer to nature.

In spite of those strong factors to align women with nature, they are also very strongly aligned with culture, as they are evidently perceived as human. As a result, women are placed in a problematic intermediate position. They are perceived as being close to culture, but nearer to nature, while men seem more fully aligned with culture.

[...]


[1] Erich Auerbach. The Brown Stocking. in Rachel Bowlby. Virginia Woolf. London: Longman, 1992. P. 20.

Excerpt out of 9 pages

Details

Title
A discussion of the representation of gender in Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse against the background of Sherry Ortner's theory
College
University College Cork
Grade
1,8
Author
Year
2004
Pages
9
Catalog Number
V51870
ISBN (eBook)
9783638477222
File size
479 KB
Language
English
Notes
Double spaced
Tags
Virginia, Woolf, Lighthouse, Sherry, Ortner
Quote paper
Anneke Richter (Author), 2004, A discussion of the representation of gender in Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse against the background of Sherry Ortner's theory, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/51870

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Title: A discussion of the representation of gender in Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse 	against the background of Sherry Ortner's theory



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