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The Hidden Power of the Female Presence

The Hidden Power of the Female Presence

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Published by Chris Humphrey
an investigation of gender relationships on a spiritual level
an investigation of gender relationships on a spiritual level

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Published by: Chris Humphrey on May 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Text and Sign Part Two: Camelia Elias
The hidden power of the female presence
Christopher Humphrey, CPR-nr.: 260582-4245
Text and Sign Part Two: Camelia Elias
Chris Humphrey Page 1 14/11/2008
The majority of women are often portrayed in literature as completelyaccepting of their subservient position to men within a patriarchal socialstructure, and most feminist theory casts its focus on women who questionthis relation of power between the genders and seek to break free from thesocial casts that enslave them and establish a new order in which power andopportunity is shared equally among men and women.
In Bessie Head’s short story
Heaven Is Not Closed 
a new dimension of thepower ratio between sexes is explored on a spiritual level. Is it possible thatthis new dimension can showcase a blatant, yet sidelined, essence of femalepower? Could this perspective open the doors to a new dimension from whichto study female protagonists from a feminist perspective?Heaven Is Not Closed is a short story written in the late 1970, by South Africanauthor Bessie Head. The story takes its start on the funeral day of theprotagonist Galethebege, a healthy, dignified woman in her nineties. A thirdperson narrator recounts the events of the day as well as the story o
Galethebege’s life as told by her brother
-in-law Modise. After summoning herentire family in her final hours she adopts a mysterious prayer-position beforetaking her last breath, instead of the customary death position of arms crossedon the chest. This mystifies the family present, as they expected her to adopt amore suitable position as she knew her hour had come. Modise tries to explainthe mystery of her final prayer to the grandchildren of the family by tellingthem the story o
f Galethebege’s courtship with her husband Ralokae, who died
five years earlier, and how it could have perhaps played an important role in
Chris Humphrey Page 2 14/11/2008
leading to her final position of rest. In this process the conventionalrelationship of power is obvious in its presence, but reveals a generallyobscured dimension of female power that has been present in literaturethroughout the ages.Feminist litera
ry theory as a critical school was established in the 1960’s but
existed before this in the cultural political context. Rita Felski defines feminism
as “forms and practises of theory that seek, no matter on what grounds and by
what means, to end the subord
ination of women.”( Felski, 1989:13) In the first
wave of criticism that was present in the Nineteenth Century focus was mainlyon the material conditions of woman in literature and how it compared tothose of men. The second wave of feminism in the late 1
960’s shifted the focus
from this material comparison to a sexual comparison in terms of such thingsas experience, biology, discourse and social and economic conditions. Allthough sexual as well as material power have both gained plenty of attentionno wave of criticism makes any particular notion of a comparison of spiritualpower though, and only feminist theory with a background in Freudian theorywhere consciousness and unconsciousness are explored or second wavefeminism focusing on the sexual difference based on experience even comeclose.The female protagonist in our story, Galethebege, is disclosed as a healthy,proud, dignified, faithful character with almost holy and mystical properties.She predicts the hour of her death, which is regarded as a holy moment. Those
present are described as “utterly convinced that they had watched a profound

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