Women have always had a conflictive relation with physical space. This is mainly due to the fact that conflict arises more from that which we lack than from that which we possess. And usually possession gives rise to conflict and anxiety because of the fact that it is possible to stop possessing, that is, we might lose what we possess, or we might be mistaken and not really possess at all. Space, and hence locations, are, as Lennard J. Davis put it, “intertwined with ideological explanations for the possession of property.” And he adds, “Novelistic space … is involved in a series of more or less hidden, ideological presuppositions about the nature of property and lands, foreign and domestic.” Margaret R. Higonnet has furthered, “Space is a challenging topic for feminist analysis. Feminist thinkers have called attention to physical images such as “the angel in the house” that imply the domestic confinement of women. They have asked why women have not been able to hold property, to travel freely, to define the shape of a nation, or to enter certain social arenas outside the home. In response to Woolf –“In fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country”- one may ask how many women have historically had full citizenship in any country at all? “A place on the map,” as Adrienne Rich has written, “is also a place in history” where writers, women and men, stand in the fullness of their identities and create texts”.
My aim with this paper is to analyse how the female protagonists of a series of highly significant literary texts have been made to live out the importance of a space in their lives, what the meaning if this space was, how some women have reacted to the eventual acquisition of these spaces, how others have had these spaces imposed upon them, how some have succumbed quietly, how others have fired in rage within its borders, how some have skilfully survived there while others have made the most of it to their own advantage.
Directly linked to the problem of space and its property are the problem of owning oneself and the issue of identity, topics that feminism has dealt with since its beginnings.
The texts I pretend to scan in this particular light, that of the weight of the issue of space and identity in them, were curiously all written in the 1960s, the time of second wave feminism, that centred not only on official legal inequalities but on unofficial ones, as well as addressing many other secondary but no less significant issues such as literature and artistic creation:
Lady Lazarus, 1962, by Sylvia Plath.
To Room Nineteen, 1963, by Doris Lessing.
Wide Sargasso Sea, 1966, by Jean Rhys.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman, 1969, by John Fowles.
Other texts I will also consider are outside this decade, and are:.
Wherever I hang, 1989, by Grace Nichols.
The Hours, 1999, by Michael Cunningham, and the film adaptation of this text, directed by Stephen Daldry in 2002, whose script was written by David Hare..
These as to the texts directly related to this course, English Literature III..
Others which are just indirectly related, but are previous readings of English Literature, are:.
The Wife’s Lament, 10th c, anonymous.
As You Like It, 1599, by William Shakespeare.
Pride and prejudice, 1813, by Jane Austen.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.
A Room of One’s Own, 1934, by Virginia Woolf.
And one which has nothing to do with the course but, again, belongs to the 1960s, is:.
The Wall, 1962, by Marlen Haushofer.
All of them have to do with the issue of women in rooms, women in space, and their identity; all of them stand as if on each others shoulders, conquering further than the text before, reaching far up, far in (as Lessing said in the Epigraph to Briefing for a Descent into Hell : “For there is never anywhere to go but in”) for ultimate freedom, trying to escape even from the last resort. And this is a process that has been going on since the beginning of literature, since even before, up to the present day.