Is Literature Any Help in Liberating Eve and Mary?
In The Sex of Knowing Michèle Le Doeuff states that “the myth of original sin survives in texts prescribing that women’s existence be uncontaminated by intellectual effort” (p. 33). My article engages with the ideas of Le Doeuff by referring to literary texts where women strive for access to knowledge but it is barred to them on the grounds of gender. Maggie Tulliver from George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and Morag Gunn from Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners yearn for acceptance of their intellect, and ultimately fail to gain it. Both heroines embody the clash between conventional femininity and writerly aspirations in the respective authors. If we draw conclusions from theology, the construction of the Virgin Mary was to put an end to the female quest for knowledge, especially the carnal knowledge that the traditional projections associate with Eve’s sin. Examining the connection between knowledge and sin, my article also discusses the deconstruction of the myth of Virgin birth in The Christmas Birthday Story by Laurence, and in Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King, a Canadian Cherokee. Both authors free Mary from the myth that became crucial to her image, suppressing her female worshippers’ womanhood and intellectual aspirations.