•  
  •  
 

Abstract

Since Simone de Beauvoir published The Second Sex in 1949, feminist analysis has tended to assume that the conditions of male normativity—reducing woman to the merely excluded "Other" of man—holds true in the experience of all women, not the least, women in the context of Christian praxis and theology. Beauvoir's powerful analysis—showing us how problematic it is to establish a position outside patriarchy's dominance of our conceptual fields—has helped to explain the resilience of sexism and forms of male violence that continue to diminish and destroy women's lives because they cannot be seen as questionable. It has also, I would argue, had the unintended consequence of intensifying the sense of limitation, so that it becomes problematic to account for the work and lives of effective, innovative and responsible women in these contexts. In order to address this problematic issue, I use the life and work of novelist Michèle Roberts, as a case study in female genius within an interdisciplinary field, in order to acknowledge the conditions that have limited a singular woman's literary and theological aspirations but also to claim that she is able to give voice to something creative of her own.

The key concept of female genius within this project draws on Julia Kristeva's notion of being a subject without implicitly excluding embodiment and female desire as in normative male theology, or in notions of genius derived from Romanticism. Roberts' work as a writer qualifies her as female genius in so far as it challenges aspects of traditional Christianity, bringing to birth new relationships between theological themes and scriptural narratives without excluding her singular female desires and pleasures as a writer. This paper—as part of a more inclusive, historical survey of the work of women writers crossing the disciplinary boundaries between literature and Christian theology over the last several centuries also asks whether, in order to do proper justice to the real and proven limitations imposed on countless women in these fields across global and historical contexts, we need, at the same time, to reduce the Christian tradition to something that is always antithetical or for which women can take absolutely no credit or bear no responsibility.

References

Battersby, Christine. Gender and Genius: Towards a Femininst Aesthetics. London: Women's, 1994.

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Trans. and ed. H. M. Parshley. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.

Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1984.

Jasper, Alison. "Revolting Fantasies: Reviewing the Cinematic Image as Fruitful Ground for Creative, Theological Interpretations in the Company of Julia Kristeva." Theology and Literature: Rethinking Reader Responsibility. Ed. Gaye Williams Ortiz and Clara A. B. Joseph. New York and Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Kristeva, Julia. Colette. Trans. Jane Marie Todd. New York and Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2004.

Kristeva, Julia. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Ross Guberman. New York and Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2001.

Kristeva, Julia. Interview with Philippe Petit. Revolt, She Said. Trans. Brian O'Keeffe. Ed. Sylvère Lotringer. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents Series, 2002.

Kristeva, Julia. New Maladies of the Soul. Trans. Ross Guberman. New York and Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Meyer, Mervin, ed. The Gnostic Gospels: The Sacred Writings of the Nag Hammadi Library, The Berlin Gnostic Codex and Codex Tchacos. London: Folio Society, MMVIII, 2007.

Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990.

Rich, Adrienne. "When We Dead Awaken," Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose. Selected and ed. Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi and Albert Gelpi. New York and London: Norton, 1993. 166-77.

Roberts, Michèle. Impossible Saints. London: Virago, 1998.

Roberts, Michèle. Paper Houses: A Memoir of the ‘70s and Beyond. London: Virago, 2007.

Roberts, Michèle. The Secret Gospel of Mary Magdalene. London: Vintage, 2007.

Roberts, Michèle. The Wild Girl. London: Methuen-Minerva, 1991.

Sjöholm, Cecilia. Kristeva & the Political. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.

Walton, Heather. Imagining Theology: Women, Writing and God. London, New York: Clark, 2007.

First Page

61

Last Page

75

Language

eng

Share

COinS