The Judithian Woman manifests herself in both the fictional works and the lives of feminist writers throughout the three waves, starting with the first mention of Judith in Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own. She is Shakespeare’s fictional sister, just as gifted and talented as her legendary brother, but burdened with her destiny to fulfil the “proper” roles of a woman: sister, daughter, wife, mother. Judith flees an arranged marriage to pursue opportunity in the world of theater, only to be met with lack of opportunity and discrimination, which eventually leads to her suicide. This narrative has become all too familiar, as Virginia Woolf’s own life follows a very similar path, and this same story is echoed in the life of other feminist authors and their character’s lives.
This thesis explores the four pillars that make up the Judithian Woman, an archetype for understanding the discrimination and oppression that female writers (and their characters) face in pursuit of their passion for literature. The structure states that the Judithian woman first has the potential for literary genius, and that in pursuit of this gift, she faces three deaths: spiritual, emotional, and physical.
Visiting Paul Tillich’s Invocation: The Lost Dimension in Religion, we understand Judith’s spirituality as living in pursuit of the bigger questions in life, such as “what is my purpose?” Through her writing, the Judithian woman answers these existential questions and live out her purpose as a writer. The discrimination she faces in pursuit of answering these bigger questions eventually results in her spiritual death. Her emotional death results from the pressures of resorting to a domesticated lifestyle in which she is expected to occupy the roles society has deemed only suitable for a woman. The constant expectation of both marriage and motherhood serve as daily interruptions to the creative pursuits of the Judithian woman. She often gives in to the pressure, resulting in the death of not only her creativity, but her emotional well-being as she sacrifices her craft to occupy these other roles.
The accumulation of the discrimination she faces, as well as the pressures of domestication, inevitably result in the Judithian woman’s literal death by suicide, or at least her attempt.