Thoughts on Scribbling from the Apple Loft: Madness and Work in Various Texts

Of Shakespeare’s sister that Virginia Woolf imagines in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf speculates: “Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly but was careful to hide them or set fire to them.”  For some scholars of women’s literature, it’s fairly common to assume that there was a vendetta against the combination of women and work in Anglo-American history, and that stifling the ability to work– often forbidding, particularly, artistic expression – resulted in concomitant madness for oppressed women.  It’s a common trope, although there were some significant historical exceptions to the rule.  I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’ve heard that Jane Austen had to hide her manuscript whenever a guest entered her room.  And one must wonder, as VW did, what happened to the likely expansive throng of brilliant, would-be  productive women who weren’t given a voice prior to, say, the Romantic or Victorian eras – or later.  As an unrelated heads up, there will be spoilers throughout this piece!  

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Thoughts on Scribbling from the Apple Loft: Madness and Work in Various Texts