As a feminist looking at texts through structuralist eyes, I am also able to hone in on sex-inflected signifiers pointing to specific patriarchal cultural values I am keen to eliminate.
It seems that this knowledge has prevented Clarissa from also committing suicide although why she would want to do so – so privileged she was such – is not completely clear. If, as she believed, her life was a failure then more had to be at root of such failure than the fact that she had not been invited along with her husband, Peter, to lunch with Lady Bruton that day.
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.
In his essay Hamlet and His Problems, TS Eliot (81-87) concludes that such refusal leaves Hamlet ‘dominated by an emotion’ which ‘is inexpressible’ – he can neither ‘understand’ nor ‘objectify’ it – and if a key character such as Hamlet remains inexpressible on stage, then as Eliot suggests the play is an ‘artistic failure’.
The implication is that if human character has changed (and according to Woolf at the end of the day all literature is about character) then literature must change as well. What better backdrop than the city to illustrate these changes!
If the ‘living language’ is neither about living, nor about how the folks in the street communicate, nor about taking a innovative approach to poetry, then about what can it be?
Most certainly as each different section of The Wasteland shifts to the next without transition (or sometimes without even obvious links), we get a sense of how frustrated and lost that society must have felt when all around them they got the same message. But unlike Howards End, The Wasteland seems to suggest connections cannot be made.
However there is also significant room to argue as does Willingham, that New Criticism is intellectually naïve in the sense that for although we can never know for certain how the greater context in which it was written influences the text, we can be certain that it has indeed influenced it and if we ignore that influence then we have lost a great deal from our aesthetic experience.
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.
Bassoff (78) likens Stein’s argument to that made by Jacques Derrida suggesting that the meaning of a text is constantly being produced or developed in the sense that there is always ‘something to be added afterwards.”