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Welcome! A few years ago, I discovered an application that artists employ in their works to bring cultural awareness to their audiences. Having discerned this semiotic theory that applies to literature, music, art, film, and the media, I have devoted the blog, "Theory of Iconic Realism" to explore this theory. The link to the publisher of my book is below. If you or your university would like a copy of this book for your library or if you would like to review it for a scholarly journal, please contact the Edwin Mellen Press at the link listed below. Looking forward to hearing from you!

25 September, 2017

A Brief Analysis of the Feminine in Sydney Owenson's Writing

Enjoy a cup of tea!

From pp. 128-130 of my book on the Rhetoric of Sydney Swenson (pictured on the right):

Drawing on traditional symbols of music, art and language, Owenson enlightens her readers concerning societal negligence. Her published collection of harp melodies, her visions of Innisfree and the beauty with which she symbolizes the people of Ireland whet the appetite for national pride within the souls of those who read her work in Ireland and England. She succeeds in feeding their hungry spirit with the sustenance of historical revelation.

The Irish historian, R. F. Foster comments, “Besides the numerous ambitious histories, written to invalidate or to justify the Union, there were novels like Lady Morgan’s The Wild Irish Girl (1806), which helped market the ideas of Irishness so influential later in the century (and ever since).” [1] All the while, she rhetorically explores the desire for Ireland to engage peacefully with the English government, represented by a similar desire for feminine ideology to receive the respect and recognition of men.

In the Preface of her 1814 novel, O’Donnel, Owenson sums up her true feelings of her purpose in writing: 
The character of my sex, no less than my own feelings, urged me, in touching those parts of Irish history which were connected with my tale, to turn them to the purposes of conciliation, and to incorporate the leaven of favourable opinion with that heavy mass of bitter prejudice, which writers, both grave and trifling have delighted to raise against my country. (O’Donnel, p. 10)
Clearly, Owenson is conscious of her British, aristocratic audience as she utilizes rhetorical representation of her feminine experience in direct correlation with her Anglo-Irish background while “embracing this ‘criminal’ role of Irish patriot, [creating] the psychological compensation of constructing her authority along recognizable masculine lines.” [2] In other words, she directly addresses the male British aristocracy by using her feminism and Irish culture to make her political statement of unification.

Feminine linguistics may be explained with a look to the feminist philosophers of the twentieth century, Julia Kristeva and Helene Cixous, who have given the world of literature an insight into the complicated workings of the female psyche, each with her unique perspective of why and how women approach the linguistic design of text. According to Kristeva: 
Sexual difference – which is at once biological, physiological, and relative to production – is translated by and translates a difference in the relationship of subjects to the symbolic contract which is the social contract; a difference, then, in the relationship to power, language, and meaning. [3]
The social significance of the feminine power of language directly affects the readers’ perception of the speakers’ views. A writer reveals to the reading audience an interpretation of each character in relation to personal experience. A writer reveals to the reading audience an interpretation of each character in relation to personal experience. Therefore, in analysing writing, one must consider the psycholinguistic qualities that are intrinsic to the writer and audience, as images experienced through aural and visual sensory perceptions appearing by means of unique lexical styles.

[1] R.F. Foster, Modern Ireland: 1600-1972, (New York: Viking Penguin, 1988), p. 161.
[2] Paula R. Feldman and Theresa M. Kelley, (ed), Romantic Women Writers: Voices and Counter voices (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1995), p. 171.
[3] Kristeva, Julia, translated by Alice Jardine and Harry Blake, “Women’s Time.” Signs (1981), p. 21.

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