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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Novels And The Stages Of Life

The LA Times reviews what sounds like a fascinating book by critic Edward Mendelson: The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say About The Stages of Life

The novels, and the stages, are Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for birth, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights for childhood, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre about maturation into adulthood, George Eliot's Middlemarch for marriage and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and Between the Acts for personal love, parenthood and "the stage when life surrenders to the next generation," respectively.

Noticed that they're all by women? Mendelson says the choice "has nothing to do with any fantasy that women have inherent depths of feeling that men do not, or that women have greater moral and emotional intelligence than men have, or that women have any other essential qualities denied to men." He argues that their common confrontation with discrimination gave each of these women writers, as writers, "a greater motivation to defend the values of personal life against the generalizing effect of stereotypes, and to defend those values by paying close attention to them in her writing, by insisting that those values matter to everyone and that everyone experiences them uniquely."


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