Almost a century ago, Virginia Woolf published one of her famous works, A Room of One’s Own. It is precisely this room that she defines as a crucial step for a woman to become a writer. The room has a double, symbolic meaning – it gives the woman some time for herself and her thoughts but also represents her freedom to possess a property, which wasn’t ( and still isn’t) a reality for women in the past.
In the last century, a lot has changed regarding women’s rights, especially in the Western part of the world, where women who aspire to become writers mostly have their space from which they create new worlds and share them with their loyal readership. However, during my bachelor studies in languages and literature, I have noticed that the books in our curriculum were mostly written by male writers. During my three years at the Faculty of Arts, the total number of books written by female writers on our reading list was five. Shockingly low number for the Faculty attended mostly by female students. The situation is not much better in Serbia where Isidora Sekulić is the only female author for the course of Serbian modern literature.
I have recently read a book dealing with this problem – why do women’s voices in literature remain silent even after acquiring a room of one’s own? The title of the book is How to suppress women’s writing, by Joanna Russ, who uses her sarcastic but pungent tone to enlist 11 ways female authors have been ignored, judged or belittled throughout history. The book is not available in Serbian, but I strongly recommend it to all of you who speak English.
It all starts with formal prohibitions that limited women’s possibility of even getting paper and pen or any other means of writing, up until the informal prohibitions such as socially inflicting the way of life for women that wouldn’t allow her to engage in intellectual activities. If somehow some women do manage to avoid the roles of a good mother, devoted wife and respectable lady, then the next step is to simply deny the fact that a woman wrote a book. For a long time, it was believed that Frankenstein, a book that gave birth to modern science-fiction, was written by Percy Shelley, husband of its real author Mary Shelley, only due to the fact that he wrote a preface for the book and also because the critics from the time couldn’t imagine a woman was able to write such masterpiece.
There are also other mechanisms of patriarchal defense: one can always label women as immoral if they are engaged in artistic activities or regard male experience more important than that of a woman. As Russ herself mentions in her book if a man describes anger, he simply shows revolutionary emotions, whereas a woman is frustrated and hysterical. Falsely categorizing women is yet another mechanism: that is how Marie Curie was known as "laboratory assistant of her husband Pierre", while English poetess Elizabeth Barret Browning was defined as "wife of a famous poet Robert Browning", automatically isolating her work to Sonnets from the Portuguese she wrote to her husband.
Elizabeth is not the only one whose work faced isolation. Many women writers were faced (and still are) with the literary community defining their works as worthy, but isolated and sole successful cases. That is how the only noteworthy novel of Charlotte Brontë became Jane Eyre, Silvia Plath became reduced to her poetry with elements indicating her mental condition, and Amy Lowell limited to her work portraying her as an old spinster.
Some examples of Russ will make you laugh, others will sadden you or awake feelings of powerlessness and anger. And that’s a good thing. The feeling will allow us to question ourselves and the prejudice we had towards literature created by women and show us that we are ready to stop the long tradition of discrimination against women writers. Let the reading of this book on this very 8th of March be your small change that will make the female written word equal to male literature. Happy international women’s day!
Sara Simović, this year's scholarship holder of the "Studenica" foundation, is a master's student at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. Simović gained her bachelor diploma in acting in Serbian language with the role of Helena in the play "Proslava" directed by Boris Liješević. Moreover, she holds numerous diplomas and awards that speak of her talent.
Wider audience was able to witness her talent through Sara’s debut role of Diana, in the popular TV series “Ubice mog oca.” According to their reactions, she has done an excellent job in presenting this role.
We talked to Sara about her impressions from the set, her experience, challenges she faced during the entire process of casting and filming, as well as what she learned while filming the series.
According to her, she was invited to the casting through a casting agency. However, since the casting took place remotely (online), due to the pandemic, Sara completed the casting via Zoom. She was particularly inspired by the role, which motivated her to present herself to the director as well as she could, but also to play her character in the right way.
Sara adds that it is very difficult to get a role and prove yourself at the casting, and to justify the trust you’ve been given later on. This is why she felt thrilled when she got the role, even though she was aware of the responsibility it carries and that there was no time to relax. As it was her debut role, the role of Diana made Sara known to wider audiences.
The talented young actress explained that Diana was a character she could work well with. She tried to understand her and connect her own experiences with hers. Sara also says there were many exhausting and difficult scenes to shoot, as well as many emotional and strong ones she had to find the right way to carry out, since Diana is an enigmatic character who doesn’t talk much and has a lot of secrets. She believes that she got the opportunity to fully express the role when she started working with the director and other actors on a daily basis.
Sarah prepared for the role by reading the script over and over again, she was attracted by the fact that her character has many secrets related to the family or related to the sect. In order to better understand the role and the theme of the “sect," Sarah read the books mentioned in Aleister Crowley's series. Since she completely entered the character of Diana, she believes that it is not the sect itself nor its teachings, that are to blame for her alienation, but the person who was the leader of that sect. According to her, that person was responsible for Diana and her behavior.
Simović got to work with many famous Serbian actors she was aware that she could learn a lot from, so she used that opportunity. She says that they helped her a lot, but she also thinks that the combination of younger and older actors made a great difference this season. She states that young people contributed with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, while more experienced actors provided great support and guidance.
She admits that during the filming, she often thought about how she could have done things differently, but that she got a clear view only after seeing the whole story in all 12 episodes. She adds that she notices many imperfections in her acting, but that does not stop her from believing that there is never an end to learning. She stresses that there wasn’t a single bad situation during the filming.
The talented young actress reveals that now people recognize her on the street. She points out that the impressions of the viewers are great and she is glad for that.
Sara Simović concluded that we should believe in everything we do in life to the fullest, regardless of the fact that it may be the dumbest and the most banal thing for other people, because otherwise nothing we do can turn out well.
As of this year, Miona Dinić is a scholarship holder of the Studenica Foundation, who has decided to continue her education abroad. She has always been interested in languages and culture of other countries, so her primary choice was to enroll in the philological department at the Grammar school in Kruševac, in order to study foreign languages in more detail. Realizing that, as she states, she could not reach all her potential in a small town in Serbia, so she decided to continue her second year of high school in the II Maribor Grammar school in Slovenia. It can be said that this was the backbone of her academic development, which motivated her to continue thinking about her education outside the borders of our country.
Accordingly, upon completion of II Grammar school Maribor, she decided to go one step further and enroll at the University of Groningen, where she was at the Department of Liberal Arts and Science. Although she is considered to be an open-minded person with a refined intercultural sensitivity, Miona did not like the organization of the program, as a result of which she decided to return to Slovenia. Then she enrolled at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana. At this university, Miona was at the Department of Languages, where she studied English and Italian, which especially occupied her attention. Wanting to learn it even better and to get even more acquainted with Italian culture, Miona decided to continue part of her master's studies in Italy at the University of Milan, Department of Humanities, where she has also been studying English and Italian language and literature since a few days ago. .
Asked whether she would recommend young people to go abroad, Miona said that everyone who has the opportunity should try their luck outside Serbia, as he believes that going to another country means a new, significant experience and broadening horizons. Miona especially emphasizes that studying in another country enables young people to understand what opportunities their peers have elsewhere, and that such a comparison helps a person to understand whether she is satisfied with the opportunities offered to them in their home country or not. She also points out that studying abroad helps young people to become more open, tolerant, and that such an experience helps them mature, in addition to undoubtedly enables direct contact with a new culture and language. She additionally points out that studying abroad brings with it the possibility for young people to be constantly surrounded by ambitious people with similar interests who constantly encourage them to be even better and use their full potential. Finally, Miona concludes that going to any other country also means leaving the comfort zone, and that it is this exit from the encapsulated nest that enables a better knowledge of oneself.
When asked how the Studenica Foundation helped her in her career, Miona said that the organization's financial support helped her a lot, especially when moving to Milan. She explains that life abroad is extremely expensive, especially in Milan, which is considered one of the most expensive cities in Europe, and that any financial support is welcome, especially in the educational context. Then she further states that studies are also not cheap, and that maintaining a high GPA and academic success do not suffer a full-time job at the same time , and that she is grateful that she can invest the scholarship she receives in her education. She also points out that the organization connected her with other young and ambitious people, which additionally motivates her to continue working on herself and professionally improving.
It is worth noting that Miona is also successful outside of the university and she is considered a person who has a wide repertoire of interests. Recently, she started writing literary criticism more intensively, with special emphasis on the fact that her works were published in as many as two foreign journals - "Corridor - Crossroads of Art", where she wrote in Slovenian about the book "Body Kintsugi", writer Senka Marić and in "Horizonte", a German-Italian magazine in which she wrote in Italian. She is also a human rights activist, a member of Amnesty Slovenia. In addition to all the above, Miona manages to be the coordinator of the TEDxLjubljana program for translators.
We are proud to have one such promising member in our team of scholarship holders, who we believe can inspire other young people to strive for the path of education with her example and academic work!