Obstacle writing: 'Forbidden to write' by Joanna Russ

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Originally from the Bronx, Jewish, lesbian, radical feminist, Joanna Russ (1937-2011) studied at Cornell with Nabokov, taught at Washington University, nhe 1960s saw the publication of short stories, followed by essays and novels.among which the following stand out The female man (1975) translated into Italian in 1989 with the same title.

At the time of college, when the need to write matures in her, she realises that she has no life experience, feels inadequate, thinks she cannot fit into Great Literature, and therefore consciously chooses to write things that nobody knows about, chooses science fiction. Of this admission of inadequacy, the common thread of Forbidden to write. How to stifle women's writing, (Society for the Encyclopaedia of Women 2021, How to Suppress Women's Writing, 1983), the author uses it to sift through the vast field of literature, with a few forays into the other arts, in order to construct an interpretative cage which unmasks the never-ending attempt to prevent women from feeling and being considered as writers in their own right.

Aware of the limitations of the survey, the author restricts the field to the Anglo-Saxon sphere and to a subjective choice of references.that others continue his unmasking work.. It starts with the ban on education for womenThe formal ban, once compulsory education for all had been achieved, moved on to the informal ban, the traps of which Russ undertakes to reveal, first and foremost, and all too evident, poverty and lack of time. It is worth remembering that even middle-class women have been, for too long and often still are, economically at the mercy of their husbands.

But let's get to the heart of the insidiousness, the subtle one, introjected into everyone's consciousness. La disincentive is perpetrated by fathers, friends, brothers, publishers, potential colleagues, all of whom urge the aspiring writer to retreat back into her own fold so as not to make a fool of herself, not to expose themselves, no one is interested in their arguments which are considered residual, many of them are in bad faith. Women writers feel torn between desire and destinythey cannot be perfect in both, sometimes they choose the only possible perfection, that of death, such as Sylvia Plath.

The denial of theagency, or of the authorship The writer runs through the 19th and 20th centuries with the power of a weedkiller. If it cannot be proved that she did not write, it is suggested that it was her brother or husband, or the man in her, she is suspected of being virilised, or she is judged as a woman, not as a writer. For a woman to write is judged unseemly because she speaks about matters considered 'confessional', i.e. immoral, many choose male pseudonyms. La depreciation of the female experiential world aims to confirm the centrality of themale action that constitutes the only authoritative canon. La false categorisation tends to belittle the writer, to push her to the margins, accusing her of regionalism if she speaks of her land, treating her as an isolated case, a minority, self-centred, ignorant. She wrote it but there's no one like her, she wrote it to me, you wrote it but it has limited relevance and is of one type onlyand so on. E. M. Forster declares that Virginia Woolf is not a great writer because she has no great cause at heart.

Expunged from anthologies, encyclopaedias, literary essays, university manuals, appear here and there with partial quotations of their works, with no link between them, out of nowhere. Isolation e the anomalyas in the case of the Dickinsonare traced back to lack of formal education and suspected eccentricity. At best they are considered intuitiveincapable of intelligence and learning, of rationality, without models to draw on.

Prohibited to write is a mine of quotations with which to go through centuries of attestations of inferiority in women's writing. For those who are embarking or have embarked on this path, Joanna Russ's essay is a viaticum; published thirty years ago, the book remains a bulletproof vest capable of intercepting the insidious forms of informal prohibition, of disincentivisation, only partly mitigated today by the power of women readers to condition the market by choosing to read women. But Joanna Russ's initial dilemma, of being able to become part of Great Literature, remains intact to this day.

Eliana Bouchard

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