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Women, writing and the (original) web

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To spin a yarn or weave a plot, the web has been a metaphor for narrative structure since stories began. Now it evokes a worldwide network of writers and words but the cobwebs were there before we first unrolled the parchment scroll of literary history. In ‘Women, Writing and the (Original) Web’, I invoke the muse as spinster, and spooler of tales, from the time when we told tales with a needle instead of a pen. Clio is used to signify the gossips and godmothers, illiterate child-carers who created the spinning princesses of fairy tale, the embroidering heroines of Greek mythology: Arachne, Procne, Penelope, Pamela, Mother Goose and the girl from Rumpelstiltskin, the Lady of Shalott and Sleeping Beauty; who can all be unpicked back to Spiderwoman, the crone who spun the world in aboriginal creation myths. Authoress of the Dreaming, she wove with the same skill as the sibyls and sirens, sister-subjects of the muse as a female site of inspiration. Plying Clio’s needle, we can work a history of textile as text, piecing together a quilt of patches told by ‘the voice of the shuttle’ reclaimed by feminist theory; though the brothers Grimm, Nietzsche, Freud and Barthes, seeming to suffer from arachnophobia, set the spindle of oral storytelling against an inky phallus, or pen, when the plot was logged on paper by poets and philosophers, instead of being siren-sung or spider-spun.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-359
JournalTextile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture
Issue number3
Early online date18 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


  • WW_O_Web_Textile

    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture on 18/05/2016, available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 51.8 KB, Word document

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