Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (VIII) - 1

Paternal authority has been distinguished by its absence during this century, something that has made it possible for women to be active in new fields. Paradoxically, however, the world of art is permeated by myths and prejudices, with the result that creative women are still marginalized. Even among the most recent generations, again and again we see women being given a peripheral existence in relation to the ‘real thing’. It is the activities of men that are perceived as respectable and valid, the world of their experience that has priority when receiving an accepted public form, while work by women is viewed by many as uninspiring.

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The term ‘women’s literature’ has been used partly in order to raise the profile of works that have been ignored, and partly in an attempt to provide women with access to a number of institutions. This was needed, but at the same time the term has become an encumbrance, as it points to a deviation from a norm. The concept is clumsy and discriminating. It makes the books that are written by women into a subsection of literature. One would prefer that those books were treated on their own merits and were read and evaluated according to the same criteria that are applied to literature written by men. One might also dream that this problem may soon be a chapter in the past. So that the readers’ concentration can focus on the thing that matters: the work.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

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