No Such Thing as Woman

“What I saw, with jarring clarity, was that there is no such thing as woman. Woman, I realised, is a thing of legend, a phantasm who flies through the world, settling here and there on this or that unsuspecting mortal female, whom she turns, briefly but momentously, into an object of yearning, veneration and terror.”

John Banville, “The Blue Guitar”


Emily Balivet, “Eve” via

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4 Responses to No Such Thing as Woman

  1. What a baffling assertion. What are your thoughts on this, Monica?


    • Dear Jennifer,

      I will try to respond to the best of my ability. First of all, I must say I choose the quotes when and if they strike on a deep emotional level. Banville is a writer that has the ability to shoot his arrows precisely and leave me speechless, though it is so hard to rationalize his words sometimes. But let me try. I think this quote refers to this spiritual quality which Jung called the archetype. It is an entity whose existence is rejected by many, but in whose power I believe with all my heart. I think Banville (or the character in the novel) meant that sometimes a mortal female is “possessed” by collective womanhood and in that moment she is perceived as a terrifying yet wonderful goddess. Here he calls this divine quality “woman” but we may also call it “the eternal feminine,” I guess.

      My best and thank you for the question.


      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah! Thank you, Monika (and I apologize for misspelling your name above)–this is the context I was lacking. What confused me was Banville’s apparent dismissal of the embodied, lived experience of actual women. But your placing his assertion in a Jungian context helps me see that Banville’s use of the word “woman” is getting at a different, psycho-spiritual, reality. Thank you for helping me understand this.

    Liked by 1 person

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