The novel Mrs. Dalloway was said to be written during a female "phase" in terms of writing, since the book was very much focused on the female experience. Is there a female language in the book? If so, what is the advantage/disadvantage of this type of writing that feminists use?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One could argue that there isn't really a recognizable female language in Mrs. Dalloway, as Woolf's use of stream of consciousness as a narrative technique serves to blur the distinction between the masculine and the feminine.

Stream of consciousness, which gives us a privileged insight into both Clarissa's thought...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

One could argue that there isn't really a recognizable female language in Mrs. Dalloway, as Woolf's use of stream of consciousness as a narrative technique serves to blur the distinction between the masculine and the feminine.

Stream of consciousness, which gives us a privileged insight into both Clarissa's thought processes and emotions, is an appropriate technique to use as Mrs. Dalloway, in time-honored modernist fashion, is reacting to the world around her rather than shaping it herself.

To a large extent, this means that Clarissa is determined by a world that is fundamentally patriarchal. That being the case, it's not surprising that the language that she uses in recounting her experiences isn't specifically feminine.

Indeed, there is a strong argument for saying that what Woolf is striving for here is a kind of non-gendered language that better captures the ceaseless flow of thoughts and ideas through the fragmented self that is a chief characteristic of the modern era.

Such an approach has earned Woolf a fair degree of criticism from feminist scholars, who accuse her of separating politics from art and of denying authentic female states of mind shaped by anger and alienation.

Invariably, these critics posit their own theories of female language, which are based on the fundamental notion that the experience of women can only be rendered by a gender-based language. In putting forward this idea, feminists are essentially arguing that there is a core female identity that needs to find expression in a specifically female language.

However, as one of the leading exponents of literary modernism, Woolf is reluctant in the extreme to entertain the very idea that there is such a thing as a core identity, be it feminine or masculine, and so, in her presentation of the inner world of Clarissa Dalloway, she blurs the distinction between men and women.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on