Art’s Addressee

This post discusses how it is much easier to make a movie for men and about men. At the same time, since the XVIIIth century, it has been a lot easier to write a novel about women and for women.

Clarissa, Pamela, Evelina, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, La de Bringas, Fortunata and Jacinta, Madame Bovary, Eugenie Grandet, Gloria, Marianela, La Regenta, Nana, Doña Inés – the list could go on forever. Even the most trivial events in a woman’s life merit a great novel about them. Can you imagine a book called Mr. Dalloway where the protagonist goes out to buy flowers for his party and does pretty much nothing else during the entire novel?  The few novels that have male names as a title – Silas Marner, David Copperfield – are still very obviously addressed to a female audience. Many writers don’t even pretend that they are interested in talking to male readers and address their audience as “mis estimadas lectoras.” In English, the lack of grammatical differentiation of genders is substituted by the gendered “my fair readers.”

I wish people remembered this when they bellyached about how few movies about women there are. As the old saying goes, nature does not tolerate a vacuum. If there is one form of art that tends to exclude a certain audience, there will soon arise an alternative form of art that will talk to those who have been excluded. And since literature is true art and film, with very few exceptions, is a pretense at art, I believe that women have definitely gotten the better deal here. If you don’t agree, consider any of the novels I listed above and the movie referenced in the linked title. Which of these artistic products do you believe is likely to survive for the next 100 years? Given that Richardson’s Clarissa has been around for the last 265 years (and is still as fascinating as ever), I think the answer is obvious.


7 thoughts on “Art’s Addressee”

    1. No, it is only in the late XVIII century (and in Spain in early XIXth century) that an entire class of women with nothing to do comes into existence. Before, women were a) illiterate and b) worked too much to have leisure for books.


  1. ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and ‘The Three Musketeers’ spring to my mind as books for the lads. As do ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘Moby Dick’.

    At what point did men consider it acceptable to read literature as well as the newspaper, poetry, sermons, essays and other non-fiction?


    1. I think it was more an issue of time than that of acceptability. There was no male alternative for the XIXth century’s significant class of women with absolutely nothing to do all day long.


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