Tell Me a Story

Women Oral Narrators
  • Mary Eagleton


In the following three chapters, I consider three specific incarnations of the figure of the woman author. Issues about the role of the author, the power to authorise and about access to the cultural field continue to be relevant for these women but so also are matters of textuality. The woman author is embroiled in problems about genre, literary form and language and solving these problems is important in maintaining her independence and her autonomy as an author. A major dilemma for the women authors figuring in this chapter lies in the movement of their stories from oral to written format, a move which, in each case, is from female to male author. Susan Barton in J. M. Coetzee’s Foe, an imagined prequel to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, is written out of history like Michèle Roberts’s female pharaoh who dreams of her defaced sepulchre where all the painted scenes of her triumphant reign and the hieroglyphs spelling her name are obliterated. Rescued with Cruso and Friday from the desert island on which they have been cast away, Susan tells her story to the ship’s captain who has no doubt about its uniqueness and suggests, encouragingly, that the booksellers will be able to ‘hire a man to set your story to rights, and put in a dash of colour too, here and there’, an idea that Susan indignantly rejects in the name of ‘truth’ (40). Susan’s determination to ‘be the author of my own story’ (40) and her conviction, after the death of Cruso on board the ship returning to England, that she now owns the island narrative are views that are sorely challenged and yet persist.


Black Woman Slave Owner Successful Author Slave Population Male Author 
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© Mary Eagleton 2005

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  • Mary Eagleton

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