International Women’s Day Inspiration

Today is International Women’s Day and I’ve been inspired by Whispering Gums to think of texts by women which have inspired me.  I’m busy today, running off to a Ballarat Writers event, which for the last year has had a committee of only women (this AGM we managed to get one male committee member) so my list will be brief.

Kate Jennings: I’ve written about Kate Jennings before. I found her collection of poetry Come to me my Melancholy Baby, when I was about 15 and just learning about poetry. The literature texts at school were very male focused, Shakespeare, Wordsworth etc and David Malouf novels for the Australian component. So when I came across her poetry, punchy, raw, emotive – full of sex, swearing and brutal Australian-ness I loved it. I’ve since collected all of her works.

Judith Wright I fell in love with Judith Wright’s poetry and again used it to balance the male poetry that I was fed at school. I had a great literature teacher who would include non-curriculum texts into the mix for us. I’m pregnant now, and occasionally get lines of Woman to Man floating through my head.

Jean Sasson I was given Princess and Daughters of Arabia to read from my mother when I was about 15. I passed these onto my friends and they stirred many discussions. While we still giggled on sleepovers about boys we also discussed arranged marriage, female circumcision and a whole range of issues we would never have learned about growing up in rural Australia.

Rosa Praed I wrote my thesis on the works of Rosa Praed, which look at whole range of female issues in early Australian life. But it was her life which fascinated me the most. In short; a female Australian author who wrote 23 books published from 1880 to 1916 – we should hear more about her.

Mary Wollstonecraft: I first encountered the Marys – Wollstonecraft and Shelley at University. I’ve recently spent some time studying The Vindication of the Rights of Woman for work in my novel. It’s such a magnificent work and one that I find myself yelling ‘yes’ to out loud, despite the fact that I’m a gen Y and this was written in 1792 – goes to show that sometimes generational change doesn’t exist.

 

The Female Eunuch – 40 years later

2010 was the 40th anniversary of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. I decided to use the occasion to re-read the book and write a post about my thoughts. That was in November. The problem is that when I had finished I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. In conjunction with the The Female Eunuch I also read An Untamed Shrew, Greer’s unauthorised biography written by Christine Wallace. And of course at the start of the year I read that Louis Nowra piece in The Monthly.

I’ve been perplexed about which approach to take when writing the piece. An encompassing history of what the book means to Australian women? An historical perspective? The book’s flaws? All of these approaches felt too wide, so I have decided to write about my own relationship with the book. Continue reading

Kristel Thornell – Night Street

Kristel Thornell's Night Street Kristel Thornell’s Night Street is a fictitious imagining of the life of tonalist painter Clarice Beckett. Released this year after winning the 2009 Australian/Vogel award the novel is commonly viewed as being more biographical than fictional. Clarice Beckett was a young tonalist artist who studied under Frederick McCubbin then under Max Meldrum. Beckett’s works are now widely lauded and can be seen in collections in the National Gallery, various state galleries, and regional galleries such as Castlemaine and Ballarat. However Thornell is clear to point out in the Author’s note in the conclusion of the novel, “The Clarice who appears in this work is not Clarice Beckett (1887-1935) but my imagining of her. While the historical figure’s art and life inspired me, I took many creative liberties with these.”

I was eager to read this novel for a few reasons. I am a fan of Beckett’s work, after learning about the tonalist movement via the family history of my partner, who is related to Percy Leason, tonalist and political satirist. Another reason I was interested in reading this novel was because I am working on a novel where the protagonist is a female artist, albeit 70 years earlier, based in Melbourne. Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The latest of the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter films is out (for those of you under rocks). This year’s instalment is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book of the series which has been broken into two instalments. Here are a few of the articles that I’ve loved about the Harry Potter phenomenon recently. (If you have others please add a comment.)

The feminist in me loves the following:

An Unabashed Loved Letter to Ginny Weasley, by Chloe, via the Feministing website:

I realized that you, Ginny Weasley, are more awesome than Viktor Krum is surly. You are more excellent than Peter Pettigrew is cowardly. You are a badass feminist witch and I am so glad that you are around as a heroine for young women reading the Potter series.

This is great. I began reading the Harry Potter series when I was 25, and it makes me wonder what it would have been like to grow up with them.

‘Harry Potter’ – Why It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye, by Alyssa Rosenburg. She notes:

Harry Potter hasn’t just been a series for me: it’s the cultural framing device of an entire generation… My great love is for Hermione Granger, one of Harry’s best friends, a girl born to human parents with magical abilities, who I believe is perhaps the greatest and most progressive popular romantic heroine of a generation. When makeover narratives were the single most prevalent romantic storyline in popular culture, Hermione got the guy in the library, dressed up for the Yule Ball, and returned placidly to her regular routine. Hermione didn’t transform herself because she never particularly felt the need to be transformed.

I love Hermione too and if by some (dark) force I ever had to swap lives with a fictional character – she is my heroine of choice.

There is also Harry Potter and the Incredibly Conservative Aristocratic Children’s Club. This article does a great analysis of the politics of J.K Rowling. It begins:

The richly imaginative details of J.K. Rowling’s fictive world, it must be admitted, are pleasurable. The hot-rod brooms, the flowing robes and flying cars, the goth Heaven of the sullen Slytherins, the snake language and the magic wands enclosing phoenix feathers or unicorn hairs, the metamorphic potions, the leaping or fizzing sweets! All these have been fully and lovingly realized in the Warner Brothers movie adaptations of the Harry Potter books, including the most recent, which is a fine-looking but completely incoherent mess with a morally bankrupt and politically repugnant story at its core.

 Note: the last two references were found via Rachel Hill’s Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.

Kate Jennings – Trouble

Kate Jennings’s first poetry collection, Come To Me My Melancholy Baby, was published in 1975.

I picked it up 22 years later in an antique shop in Bright, Victoria. I remember the shelf, opening the black hard cover and reading the first poem. I had to have this book. The poetry was raw, honest and far removed from the dead old englishman poetry I was fed at school. I read the book nightly. I shared it with friends. It was my first dip into waters of feminist literature – and I loved it. Continue reading