The assumption that condescension to women (who were known by "science" to be intellectually inferior and in fact, as Aristotle claimed, defective males) must be accurate was sustained throughout nearly all of history. There is no such thing as a "feminine type" of writing in my view (contra much French feminism as well); George Eliot was praised by male critics for her "virile" style before they discovered she was Marianne Evans. And it is Eliot's term that the "type" is a "feminine type"--I've no idea how you find a way to separate that. His statement is quite clear. He asserts a type that, when sophisticated, is a "feminine type" and he follows that up with a contrast to Joyce, whom he sees as being truly great. And he offers no reason or evidence beyond his own assertion. Ironically, Joyce is seen as a "feminine type" of writer by feminist critics who do posit gender difference in writing. That is why so many feminist critics have written on Joyce.
But even saying what you do shows a denial of or lack of knowledge of the history of women's writing. It is always a problem because women spend their time in universities reading what men wrote from Plato to Eliot to Derrida--and they also read what women wrote--but most men, even in universities, have never read women's literature, philosophy, theology, history, economics, science, sociology. . . . It was all there nonetheless. So it is very difficult even to have a discussion when one group knows both sides of a debate and the other only knows what they already thought. (I base this on who takes WS courses, who--among colleagues--has read any feminist critics, the citations in nearly all critical texts in which women writers routinely cite men but the opposite is not true, and the indices of book after book. Just try checking a selection for the names of male writers and of female writers in bibliographies and indices to see for yourself).
Eliot had no basis whatever except his own definition of "dissociation" on which to base this. He had read and knew a great deal about the psychological and clinical meaning of "dissociation," but the application to women as writers is his own use of it, despite the historical definition of dissociation as hysteria, presumed until WWI to be a "female malady." It is very easy to find what you have defined in advance. It's a circular argument: to write the way Woolf does is dissociation; Woolf writes the way she does; ergo she represents a process of dissociation. In fact, except for his pronouncement, there is no reason given for saying how she wrote, and her work has been foundational in modernism: it is brilliant. She was also a far better prose stylist than Eliot, in my view, because her syntax is so much more "orchestrated," a term applied to her by someone I forget. Study the syntax to see her astonishing control of rhythm, emphasis, and sound. To condescend to Woolf is just silly, but Eliot condescended to pretty much every woman writer except Marianne Moore and Djuna Barnes (in her early work). It is really hard to believe they were all banal scribblers. Read the excised Fresca episode in the TWL facsimile for a sample of obscene condescension.
>>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]
> 07/21/09 3:58 PM >>>
Nancy Gish wrote:
> He did read her work, and was rather condescending about it: he
> called her writing "what might more crudely be called a feminine type,
> when it is also a very sophisticated type, [which] makes its art by
> feeling and by contemplating the feeling, rather than the object into
> which the feeling can be made." he said this resulted in an example
> of "a process of dissociation."
Seems to me he presents a fairly measured criticism by way of an
analysis that holds up to inspection, i.e. if that is Woolf's procedure,
her writing does present an example of dissociation. Is it necessary to
point out that he is speaking of a type, not simply the feminine?
Whether or not it is condescending is secondary to whether it is accurate.