(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

In the first four of her Frankfurt Lectures on Poetics, which make up the essays of the volume, Wolf places herself as the central subject. In the essays, Wolf reflects on her 1980 trip to Greece during which she explored materials for Cassandra, as well as on contemporary events such as the attempt on U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s life. She examines the historical Cassandra and conditions for the woman writer (or speaker) of the past and present. Wolf recounts simultaneously visiting Greece and reading Aeschylus’ trilogy Oresteia (458 b.c.), which helped trigger her writing of Cassandra. Wolf adds her own experiences to those of the Greeks, Americans, and Germans whom she meets in her travels to form a body of communal memories that make up the text as a whole. Wolf refuses to be bound by any genre definition, which contributes to her revision of the tradition.

Part of Wolf’s reconsideration of literary tradition focuses on the position of women. She asks, “To what extent is there really such a thing as ‘women’s writing’?” Wolf’s four essays and her narrative help to answer this question. She provides an explicit response in her third essay, in which she suggests that there is “women’s writing”to the extent that women, for historical and biological reasons, experience a different reality than men and express it. To the extent that women belong not to the rulers but to the ruled, and have done so for centuries. . . . To the extent that they stop wearing themselves out trying to integrate themselves into the prevailing delusional system. To the extent that,...

(The entire section is 674 words.)