Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Are Women Human? By Dorothy L. Sayers

69 pages
Reprinted in 2005
by Eerdmans Publishing Company

Are Women Human? Penetrating, Sensible, and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society is just that -- a compilation of speeches and essays written by Dorothy L. Sayers around the same time she was penning her famed Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Of course, Ms. Sayers wrote more than just the Lord Peter books. Her bibliography includes a great number of plays, poetry collections, short stories, novels, essays, commentaries and other non-fiction works.

One might wonder that I chose to read this little book of essays unless of course you've noticed how quickly this review has followed my review of Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. This is not by chance. I read Are Women Human? right after finishing Gaudy Night in preparation for the discussion with my book club. Together as a group it was decided that we would not only read and discuss one of Sayers' novels, but also this particular collection of essays for their relevance to some of the social commentaries entwined within Gaudy Night.

At first glance some might try to label Are Women Human? a collection of feminist thoughts and ideology in the most negative sense of the word, but that is exactly the opposite of what this book contains. The ladies in my book club (some quite conservative in ideology) and I found Ms. Sayers thoughts and comments to be both balanced and enlightening. But what we liked best about this book was the point of view given. Dorothy Sayers was not only a woman, but a married woman who also received a college education and maintained a career during the earliest years of the 20th century -- a time when the average woman did not attend college and was often challenged for her desire to have a career. Ms. Sayers' point of view is valuable in that it is vastly different than the point of view of a 21st century woman looking back or even a 18th century woman looking forward.

Of further interest to me, it almost seemed as if Ms. Sayers penned the first essay around the same time she was writing Gaudy Night, for examples used in her essay appear in similar form within the novel played out or brought up in conversations by various characters within the story.

Overall I think Ms. Sayer's views could be summed up in this quote from Are Women Human?:
"Indeed, it is my experience that both men and women are fundamentally human, and that there is very little mystery about either sex, except the exasperating mysteriousness of human beings in general."
 For those looking for a more in-depth study of some of the social issues of the early 1920s or for those curious to hear what Dorothy L. Sayers' views were on the issue of feminism I definitely recommend checking out this little book. It sparked some interesting discussion amongst my book club and further enriched my reading comprehension of the earlier reviewed Gaudy Night.

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Marie said...

This sounds like a very worthwhile read. I haven't read Sayers in a long time.

hopeinbrazil said...

I haven't read this since college days; it sounds like it's time for a re-reading.