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    LIT 4386 British and American Literature by Women

    Class 21

    Reading Assignment: Hall, "Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself" (1394)
    Post #9 Group A

    Class Objectives:

  • To discuss "inversion" and lesbian texts
  • To analyze the "cryptic" text by Radcliffe Hall

Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Backgrounds

Based on your reading of the introduction, explain the concept of "inversion".

"Miss Ogilvy Finds herself" takes up issues similar to those introduced by Hall's major work, The Well of Loneliness.

This is another "cryptic script," like the work of Gilman, Chopin and to some extent Woolf, in that we are left to figure out or try to understand the surreal or supernatural ending.

As in "The Yellow Wallpaper" we are dealing with the writer's resistance to the confining roles that face women in society, and this resistance takes the form of fantasy. One way to explain these stories is to realize that the conditions of womanhood - for some women - are so confining as to be unreal, and the resulting psychological states cannot be represented by standard narratives of realism or romance. The writer is forced to form new narrative modes, and the result is something that does not fit into the normal short-story or novel form. It might be strange, distorted, ugly, disturbing (certainly not the standards of writing advocated by Virginia Woolf). BUT THEY BEG TO BE UNDERSTOOD.

Think about the relationship between the complexities of women's lived lives and the confining nature of realism and how this leads to generic experimentation (gothic, fantasy, "trash"). For example, think of the ways in which the realistic story The Awakening was condemned for the story it told.

2. "Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself"

What form is it?

How would you desscribe the writing style?

Who are the main characters?

What is the setting?

How would you describe Miss Ogilvy at the beginning of the story?

What is the main conflict in the story?

War: women are often figured as pacifists and certainly much feminism argues against war as patriarchal violence. How does war affect Miss O? (see page 1398-99)

The story raises the importance of appearing feminine. Why does Miss O cut her hair before the war? (Note the appearance of "cropped heads" all over England.) Why do the sisters insist that she grow her hair long again? Why is hair so important?

Once again we see the spectre of insanity: How do the sisters deal with Miss O's treatment when she returns from war? See page 1400 - shell shock.

Miss O grows old, bitter and miserable. In answer to this seemingly inescapable fate, she leaves on an adventure.

In part six the narrative shifts to fantasy. A memory of the past. On page 1404 the third person narrative shifts. At what point does the shift in gender take place?

What is this fantasized persona that is and is not Miss O like? What are his characteristics? What are the aspects of manhood that Miss O misses or fantasizes about?

Examine the ending, page 1407. How do you understand it?