Playing the Field

Women’s Access to Cultural Production
  • Mary Eagleton


Generally speaking, the women artist or the woman author has not considered herself or been considered by others as the one lucky bastard in a thousand. The wonderful cartoon by Guerilla Girls, entitled ‘Advantages’, features a woman artist, brush in one hand, looking intently at her canvas. She is also pregnant, has a saucepan on her head and a toddler pulling at her skirts. The caption reads: ‘Why have there been no great women artists? — ‘“Great questions by great men” series’. Moreover, in the two stories that are the focus of this chapter, Alice Walker’s ‘Everyday Use’ and Antonia Byatt’s ‘Art Work’, it is not clear if the women involved are ‘artists’ or their work ‘art’.2 Whether it is possible or desirable to construct the women and their work in this way is precisely the problem the stories confront. Becoming that figure or earning that title for one’s work is intimately connected with being able to authorise oneself and one’s activities. Walker’s story concerns some quilts, their production, their multiple meanings and their rightful ownership. Dee, the successful, educated daughter of a poor, black family from the Southern States, makes one of her infrequent trips back to her mother’s house to claim the quilts which she wants to display in her own home.


Cultural Production Symbolic Capital Magazine Article Pure Possibility Symbolic Violence 
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© Mary Eagleton 2005

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  • Mary Eagleton

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