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Lingyan Yang The texts from the first two weeks of class forced me to think about feminist literature and what feminist literature should look like. Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own and Helene Cixous' “The Laugh of the Medusa” have several contrasting points for me, and maybe one point on which they seem to agree. Initially, Woolf primarily focuses on the material conditions required for the production of a feminist art. I do not recall Cixous really addressing the same concern in her writing. For Woolf, a woman needed at least five hundred pounds a year in order to be free from the daily stress of acquiring the money for her own survival, and perhaps the survival of her family. I think Woolf also meant the idea of “a room of one's own” to imply a space sheltered to a certain degree from the strictures of the larger patriarchal world. With the absence of needy children and men, a woman would have the space and the time in order to think and write. Woolf's aesthetic concerns show more overlap with Cixous. Woolf viewed Charlotte Bronte's writing as inferior because she became distracted in her own work by her own personal concerns and capitulated to masculinity rather then produce a purer feminist aesthetic. “Her books will be deformed and twisted. She will write in a rage where she should write calmly. She will write foolishly where she should write wisely. She will write of herself where she should write of her characters. She is at war with her lot. How could she help but die young, cramped and thwarted?” The absence of the material conditions for artistic production in women's lives as well as political disenfranchisement effectively excluded women from artistic production for most of human history, with a few notable exceptions such as Aphra Behn. Cixous was less concerned with the material conditions, maybe because woman had been more enfranchised, although they probably have yet to achieve true equality with men. Women are often still paid less than men for the same work. In Cixous' gynocriticism, she fully explored the implications for a woman awake to her body and producing a distinct feminist aesthetic. “Woman unthinks the unifying, regulating history that homogenizes and channels forces, herding contradictions into a single battlefield. In woman, personal history blends together with the history of all women, as well as national and world history.” The woman's artistic production has a distinctly different character from the masculine art. Rather than dividing, conquering, and creating hierarchies, the feminist aesthetic is syncretic. The woman can simultaneously unite the macro and micro levels of human experience, rather than experiencing them as a contradiction or in tension. I thought Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar bore witness to the power of a feminist art. The end of the novel has two real turning points. The first was Esther's trip to the OBGYN to be fitted for a contraceptive device. Birth control gave her real control over her destiny. She could engage in sexual encounters like Buddy Willard but be free from the anxiety that she might be tethered to a child for the rest of her life as a result of unprotected intercourse. As Gilbert and Gubar pointed out, Esther experienced feminine subjectivity as an illness, in this case as a mental illness. Her desires to rebel and criticize were considered abnormal and she really only expresses herself openly after her hospitalizations. I saw her obsession with death and killing herself as active resistance to the possibility and the desire for her to procreate and produce life. In wanting to resist convention as a woman and an artist, she saw death as active resistance. However, that way lies personal misery and annihilation and readers are left with the impression that the future will be brighter for Esther. The bell jar has lifted, and she will be released from the hospital.