biography · thoughts · why not woman · woman story · woman writers

what is the female angle on an equilateral triangle

Lord Peter Wimsey quote
Lord Peter Wimsey’s quote

Was she a feminist? Was she ahead of her time in history? Or was she a mere writer of mysteries? In 1915 Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) became one of the first women to graduate from Oxford University. In 1912, Sayers won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford where she studied modern languages and medieval literature. She finished with first-class honours in 1915. Women could not be awarded degrees at that time, but Sayers was among the first to receive a degree when the position changed a few years later; in 1920 she graduated as an MA.

Her first major work was “Whose Body?”(1923), in which she created the detective Lord Peter Wimsey, a witty gentleman-scholar who would be featured in later short stories. After the 1930s she focused on theological dramas and books, radio plays and scholarly translations, notably of Dante’s”The Divine Comedy”.

She was primarily known as a crime writer, Dorothy Sayers was not limited to that genre. She was a translator of Dante, playwright, a Christian apologist, and a founder of the classical education movement. She had a passion for careful reasoning and logic, which can be like a cold drink on a hot day to today’s confused post-modern reader. Though her writing is not extremely accessible, it is rewarding, clever, witty and quite funny. She had a way of saying old orthodox truths in fresh ways. She shared a friendship with C.S. Lewis and even attended some meetings of the Socratic Club in Oxford, of which Lewis was the chairman. Her most well known Christian apologetic work is “The Mind of the Maker. Though the language and writing are thick, it is a good read and worth the wading.

Dorothy L Sayers’ great lay contemporaries in the Church of England were T. S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, but none of them wrote a book quite like The Mind of the Maker”. In this crisp, elegant exercise in theology, Sayers illuminates the doctrine of the Trinity by relating it to the process of writing fiction, a process about which she could speak with complete authority. She illustrates her thesis with many examples drawn from her own books, and even illuminates the Christian heresies by analysing certain failures of creation which regularly occur in literature. This marvellous classic describes the creative process in terms of the arts and shows that literature can cast light on theology and vice versa.

“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.”
― Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

“I am occasionally desired by congenital imbeciles and the editors of magazines to say something about the writing of detective fiction “from the woman’s point of view.” To such demands, one can only say “Go away and don’t be silly. You might as well ask what is the female angle on an equilateral triangle.”
― Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

“A man once asked me … how I managed in my books to write such natural conversation between men when they were by themselves. Was I, by any chance, a member of a large, mixed family with a lot of male friends? I replied that, on the contrary, I was an only child and had practically never seen or spoken to any men of my own age till I was about twenty-five. “Well,” said the man, “I shouldn’t have expected a woman (meaning me) to have been able to make it so convincing.” I replied that I had coped with this difficult problem by making my men talk, as far as possible, like ordinary human beings. This aspect of the matter seemed to surprise the other speaker; he said no more, but took it away to chew it over. One of these days it may quite likely occur to him that women, as well as men, when left to themselves, talk very much like human beings also.”
― Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

“In reaction against the age-old slogan, “woman is the weaker vessel,” or the still more offensive, “woman is a divine creature,” we have, I think, allowed ourselves to drift into asserting that “a woman is as good as a man,” without always pausing to think what exactly we mean by that. What, I feel, we ought to mean is something so obvious that it is apt to escape attention altogether, viz: (…) that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual. What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.”
― Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

“Why do you want a letter from me? Why don’t you take the trouble to find out for yourselves what Christianity is? You take time to learn technical terms about electricity. Why don’t you do as much for theology? Why do you never read the great writings on the subject, but take your information from the secular ‘experts’ who have picked it up as inaccurately as you? Why don’t you learn the facts in this field as honestly as your own field? Why do you accept mildewed old heresies as the language of the church, when any handbook on church history will tell you where they came from?
Why do you balk at the doctrine of the Trinity – God the three in One – yet meekly acquiesce when Einstein tells you E=mc2? What makes you suppose that the expression “God ordains” is narrow and bigoted, while your own expression, “Science demands” is taken as an objective statement of fact?
You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you know about Christian beliefs.
I admit, you can practice Christianity without knowing much theology, just as you can drive a car without knowing much about internal combustion. But when something breaks down in the car, you go humbly to the man who understands the works; whereas if something goes wrong with religion, you merely throw the works away and tell the theologian he is a liar.
Why do you want a letter from me telling you about God? You will never bother to check on it or find out whether I’m giving you personal opinions or Christian doctrines. Don’t bother. Go away and do some work and let me get on with mine.”
― Dorothy L. Sayers
tags: christian-apologetics

(above are quoted from the internet resources)

dorothy L Sayers

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