TOKYO -- Ever since Etheria, a fourth-century Western European, wrote about her three-year pilgrimage to the Christian Holy Land in the Middle East, women authors have been providing an alternative view of the world. Alternatively excoriated and lionized, they have moved from the shadows to critical acclaim.
For many literary critics, the emotional terrain has been seen as the dominion of women writers. Elaine Showalter, author of "A Literature of Her Own," contends that until recently there was no picaresque tradition among female novelists. Denied full participation in public life, women's "emotions rushed in to fill the vacuum of experience," says Showalter. In her long essay, "Three Guineas," Virginia Woolf wrote, "As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the world."