Canons, anxiety, writing, penises.

Although English literary history is not restricted to male authors since way back in the past, as clearly shown by the existence of the first professional woman author, Aphra Behn, in the 17th century, most authors in anthologies are still male, even nowadays. This comes to show that literature has been, and still is dominated by men, whose texts are self-established as the canon of literature and whose views are held as objective and universal. On the contrary women’s point of view is seen as a fruit of women’s alterity, as they have always been considered as the other of men, and defined by what they lack – a penis, which (I must say out of my own experience) is not essential for writing -. Thus, literature written by women has always been looked down on, and regarded as a minor product designed for the consumption of an unimportant niche of the public: other women. Experiences, worries and feelings belonging to women only are disregarded or considered from an alien perspective, not first hand knowledge. And, to what extent is it not minimized, simplified, ignored?

Woman with hat , Modigliani(copy)

This non-unbiased male-constituted canon does not represent women’s experience, thus male literary precursors cannot really be seen as those of women authors, who have to build a literary tradition of their own, in which their views and direct experience is represented, and characters are not simplified or plain due to lack of direct knowledge of what being a woman in a certain place and time represents. This is explained in Gilbert and Gubar´s theory of the Anxiety of Authorship, which revise Bloom’s own theory of the Anxiety of Influence. Women do not have the same kind of pressure as men. It is difficult for male writers to produce a text which does not resemble that of the literary precursors or seems which seems strongly indebted to them (Anxiety of Influence). Women do not have this problem, as they lack a proper literary history of their own.


However, women have a disadvantage: Anxiety of Authorship, as they had always been traditionally barred from the literary world, but this fact has its own consequences for them, as they are isolated from male precursors when they write and thus establish a tradition of their own. They may not become classics or precursors ever because of their sex. They may not be taken seriously because of their detachment from the tradition which set the foundations for literary history, that is male literature.

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