“This Novel Changes Lives”
The Women’s Room, Consciousness-Raising and the Confessional Mode
In literary history, 1970s appears as a decade when discussions of feminist consciousness, women writers and women readers became quite significant especially within the frame of American feminist literary criticism. Concerns such as consciousness-raising and political nature of personal stories were frequently voiced in literary works which were considered as powerful tools in generating feminist awareness among women. Accordingly, the 1970s observed the appearance of a great number of literary works which particularly focused on women and encouraged the scrutiny of patriarchal oppression and stereotypically produced passive and inferior images of women. Published in 1977 with a cover announcing that “this book will change lives,” Marilyn French’s best-sellerTheWomen’s Room is one of the novels where the personal stories of the protagonist highlight their political nature and depict her consciousness-raising towards a more liberated identity. In this paper, I argue that while generating the novel’s one of the main themes, consciousness-raising also functions as a plot device and is presented and reinforced through the use of the confessional mode which, as a subgenre of autobiographical fiction, is particularly used in feminist texts to accentuate the awareness of the sexual politics infused in seemingly mundane and private stories of women.