For example, in her essay Poses and Passions, Zirka Filipczak reminds us that the poses adopted by men and women in the artwork of the English Renaissance are strategically quite different – whilst men are represented as active (holding a sword, perhaps) and intelligent (hands on a stack of books, for example), women either sit modestly silent, their empty hands crossed demurely across their girdles or, in exceptional circumstances, they hold a bible.
Tracy Hargreaves (Androgyny in Modern Literature) has suggested that for a broad range of writers, the androgyne has signalled both cultural regeneration and degeneration – a disruption in ‘normative’ gendered identities which can be seen as being ‘divine or reviled’. But whilst Woolf takes the position that such disruption would be divine, Eliot seems to suggest that as women become more like men, society suffers.
In the Freudian context, this almost always relates to the Oedipal complex. A young girl like Rossetti, once bound to her mother through homosexual desire, must turn that desire toward father and the wish for his baby (Blass and Simon, 169).
To what extent are Hardy’s tragic protagonists themselves responsible for the fate that overtakes them? I suggest that depends on cosmology. As scientific advancements in the 19th century made it difficult for Hardy to accept his Christian cosmology, he looked for alternatives (Inghan, 181). I suggest that Hardy mixes and matches them to ∞
In the wake of Queer theory, I suggest that the binary oppositions between ‘feminine and masculine’ supporting Cixous’ ecriture feminine have dissolved. Indeed queer now uses ‘the open mesh of possibilities’ – those ‘gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning’, which Cixous once claimed for ecriture feminine.
However if we look to the basic premise underlying Enlightenment feminism – that women, not having been denied powers of reason, must have the moral status appropriate to ‘rational beings’, formed in the image of a rational God – we must reach a different conclusion. At least two of the three of Austen’s heroines examined were apparently presumed by the men in their lives as capable not of forging their own moral code, but only of regurgitating that of their lovers.
It is sobering to realise that the immense popularity, especially with younger women, of the feminine paradigm Carrie represents, provides a gauge on how 21st century women view themselves as women.