Feminist literary criticism | Wikipedia audio article


Feminist literary criticism is literary criticism
informed by feminist theory, or more broadly, by the politics of feminism. It uses the principles and ideology of feminism
to critique the language of literature. This school of thought seeks to analyze and
describe the ways in which literature portrays the narrative of male domination by exploring
the economic, social, political, and psychological forces embedded within literature. This way of thinking and criticizing works
can be said to have changed the way literary texts are viewed and studied, as well as changing
and expanding the canon of what is commonly taught. It is used a lot in Greek myths.Traditionally,
feminist literary criticism has sought to examine old texts within literary canon through
a new lens. Specific goals of feminist criticism include
both the development and discovery female tradition of writing, and rediscovering of
old texts, while also interpreting symbolism of women’s writing so that it will not be
lost or ignored by the male point of view and resisting sexism inherent in the majority
of mainstream literature. These goals, along with the intent to analyze
women writers and their writings from a female perspective, and increase awareness of the
sexual politics of language and style were developed by Lisa Tuttle in the 1980s, and
have since been adopted by a majority of feminist critics. The history of feminist literary criticism
is extensive, from classic works of nineteenth-century women authors such as George Eliot and Margaret
Fuller to cutting-edge theoretical work in women’s studies and gender studies by “third-wave”
authors. Before the 1970s—in the first and second
waves of feminism— feminist literary criticism was concerned with women’s authorship and
the representation of women’s condition within literature; in particular the depiction of
fictional female characters. In addition, feminist literary criticism is
concerned with the exclusion of women from the literary canon, with theorists such as
Lois Tyson suggesting that this is because the views of women authors are often not considered
to be universal ones.Additionally, feminist criticism has been closely associated with
the birth and growth of queer studies. Modern feminist literary theory seeks to understand
both the literary portrayals and representation of both women and people in the queer community,
expanding the role of a variety of identities and analysis within feminist literary criticism.==Methods employed==
Feminist scholarship has developed a variety of ways to unpack literature in order to understand
its essence through a feminist lens. Scholars under the camp known as Feminine
Critique sought to divorce literary analysis away from abstract diction-based arguments
and instead tailored their criticism to more “grounded” pieces of literature (plot,
characters, etc.) and recognize the perceived implicit misogyny of the structure of the
story itself. Others schools of thought such as gynocriticism-
which is considered a ‘female’ perspective on women’s writings – uses a historicist approach
to literature by exposing exemplary female scholarship in literature and the ways in
which their relation to gender structure relayed in their portrayal of both fiction and reality
in their texts. Gynocriticism was introduced during the time
of second wave feminism. Elaine Showalter suggests that feminist critique
is an “ideological, righteous, angry, and admonitory search for the sins and errors
of the past,” and says gynocriticism enlists “the grace of imagination in a disinterested
search for the essential difference of women’s writing.”More contemporary scholars attempt
to understand the intersecting points of femininity and complicate our common assumptions about
gender politics by accessing different categories of identity (race, class, sexual orientation,
etc.) The ultimate goal of any of these tools is
to uncover and expose patriarchal underlying tensions within novels and interrogate the
ways in which our basic literary assumptions about such novels are contingent on female
subordination. In this way, the accessibility of literature
broadens to a far more inclusive and holistic population. Moreover, works that historically received
little or no attention, given the historical constraints around female authorship in some
cultures, are able to be heard in their original form and unabridged. This makes a broader collection of literature
for all readers insofar as all great works of literature are given exposure without bias
towards a gender influenced system.Women have also begun to employ anti-patriarchal themes
to protest the historical censorship of literature written by women. The rise of decadent feminist literature in
the 1990s was meant to directly challenge the sexual politics of the patriarchy. By employing a wide range of female sexual
exploration and lesbian and queer identities by those like Rita Felski and Judith Bennet,
women were able attract more attention about feminist topics in literature.Since the development
of more complex conceptions of gender and subjectivity and third-wave feminism, feminist
literary criticism has taken a variety of new routes, namely in the tradition of the
Frankfurt School’s critical theory, which analyzes how the dominant ideology of a subject
influences societal understanding. It has also considered gender in the terms
of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, as part of the deconstruction of existing relations
of power, and as a concrete political investment. The more traditionally central feminist concern
with the representation and politics of women’s lives has continued to play an active role
in criticism. More specifically, modern feminist criticism
deals with those issues related to the perceived intentional and unintentional patriarchal
programming within key aspects of society including education, politics and the work
force. When looking at literature, modern feminist
literary critics also seek ask how feminist, literary, and critical the critique practices
are,with scholars such as Susan Lanser looking to improve both literature analysis and the
analyzer’s own practices to be more diverse.==History and critics==
While the beginning of more mainstream feminist literary criticism is typically considered
during second-wave feminism, there are multiple texts prior to that era that contributed greatly
to the field. Feminist literary criticism can be traced
back to medieval times, with some arguing that Geoffrey Chaucer’s Wife of Bath could
be an example of early feminist literally critics. Additionally, the period considered First
wave feminism also contributed extensively to literature and women’s presence within
it. For example,1929’s A Room of One’s Own by
Virginia Woolf is undoubtedly considered one of these formative texts. In it, Woolf argues that in order to write
creatively and be critically successful, a woman must be able to own her own space and
financial stability. And though the basis of the plot is around
a Woolf speaking at a conference for women’s literature, she speculates that there is still
a long way to go for women and so-called ‘women’s issues’ in creative space, especially based
on the differences in educational quality Woolf observed between men and women.Modern
feminist literary criticism finds most of its roots in the 1960s second-wave feminist
movements. Beginning with the interrogation of male-centric
literature that portrayed women in a demeaning and oppressed model, theorist such as Mary
Ellman, Kate Millet and Germaine Greer challenged past imaginations of the feminine within literary
scholarship. Within second-wave feminism, three phases
can be defined: the feminine phase, the feminist phase, and the female phase. During the feminine phase, female writers
adhered to male values. In the feminist phase, there was a theme of
criticism of women’s role in society. And in the female phase, it was now assumed
that women’s works were valid, and the works were less combative than in the feminist phase.Susan
Lanser suggested changing the name of feminist literary criticism to “critical literary
feminism” to change the focus from the criticism to the feminism, and points out that writing
such works requires “consciousness of political context.” In a similar vein, Elaine Showalter became
a leading critic in the gynocritical method with her work A Literature of their Own in
1977. By this time, scholars were not only interested
in simply demarcating narratives of oppression but also creating a literary space for past,
present and future female literary scholars to substantiate their experience in a genuine
way that appreciates the aesthetic form of their works. Additionally, Black literary feminist scholars
began to emerge, in the post-Civil Rights era of the United States, as a response to
the masculine-centric narratives of Black empowerments began to gain momentum over female
voices. Although not a ”critical” text, The Black
Woman: An Anthology, edited by Cade (1970) is seen as essential to the rise of Black
literary criticism and theory. It’s compilation of poems, short stories
and essays gave rise to new institutionally supported forms of Black literary scholarship. The literary scholarship also included began
with the perception of Black female writers being under received relative to their talent. The Combahee River Collective released what
is called one of the most famous pieces in Black literary scholarship known as “A Black
Feminist Statement” (1977), which sought to prove that literary feminism was an important
component to black female liberation. In 1977 Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar published
The Madwoman in the Attic, an analysis of women’s poetry and prose, and how it fits
into the larger feminist literary canon. This publication has become a staple of feminist
criticism and has expanded the realm of publications considered to be feminist works, especially
in the 19th century. The book specifically argues that women have
largely been considered in two distinct categories by men in academia, monsters or angels. Gilbert and Gubar argued that being trapped
in these categories regulated women writers to specific areas of literature and writing,
leaving the rest open only to men, and causing a distinct anxiety in women’s writers to stay
specifically within those categories or be ridiculed. Gilbert and Gubar’s specific focus on literary
criticism in the realm of poetry and other short pieces has expanded the possibilities
of feminist literary contributions today, as they were previously seen as less valid
than longer works. Today, writers like Gloria E. Anzaldúa have
been able to contribute to the feminist canon, while still working with writing forms other
than full-sized novels. In the 1980s, Hazel Carby, Barbara Christian,
bell hooks, Nellie McKay, Valerie Smith, Hortense Spillers, Eleanor Traylor, Cheryl Wall and
Sheryl Ann Williams all contributed heavily to the Black Feminist Scholarship of the period. During that same time, Deborah E. McDowell
published New Directions for Black Feminist Criticism, which called for a more theoretical
school of criticism versus the current writings, which she deemed overly practical. In this essay McDowell also extensively discussed
black women’s portrayal in literature, and how it came across as even more negative than
white women’s portrayal. As time moved forward, the theory began to
disperse in ideology. Many decided to shift towards the nuanced
psychological factors of the Black experience and further away from broad sweeping generalizations. Others began to connect their works to the
politics of lesbianism. Some decided to analyze the Black experience
through their relationship to the Western world. Regardless, these scholars continue to employ
a variety of methods to explore the identity of Black feminism in literature. French scholars such as Julia Kristeva, Hélène
Cixous, Luce Irigaray and Bracha L. Ettinger introduced psychoanalytic discourses into
their work by way of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan as a way to truly “get to the root”
of feminine anxieties within text to manifest broader societal truths about the place of
women.,, Current feminist scholars in the field of literature include Hortense Spillers,
Nancy Armstrong, Annette Kolodny and Irene Tayler who all come from a variety of backgrounds
who use their own nuanced and subjective experiences to inform their understanding of feminist
literature. Currently, several university scholars all
employ the usage of literary feminism when critiquing texts. The mainstreaming of this school has given
academia an extremely useful tool in raising questions over the gender relationships within
texts.==Modern applications==
As with other aspects of feminist theory, over the course of the second half of twentieth
century feminist literary criticism has expanded to include a significantly broader spectrum
of identities under the umbrella term of ‘feminism.’ Third wave feminist theory and beyond has
striven to include more identities and aspects of intersectionality, and feminist literary
criticism has followed suit. Third wave feminism and feminist literary
criticism is concerned more with the intersection of race and other feminist concerns. As a result, the variety and nature of texts
examined has grown to include more texts from transnational perspective, while still maintaining
its roots in analyzing how male dominated society effects the interpretation and creation
of literature. At the same time, new feminist literary critics
examine the universal images used by women writers to uncover the unconscious symbolism
women have used to describe themselves, their world, female society across time and nationalities
to uncover the specifically feminine language in literature. New Feminist literature and criticism minimize
the focus on male influences and disruptions in a woman’s text by socio-political hegemony
to better uncover the universal unconscious of the female mind in its own context.==References=====Further reading===
Judith Butler. Gender Trouble. ISBN 0-415-92499-5. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer
and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. ISBN 0-300-08458-7. Toril Moi. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary
Theory. ISBN 0-415-02974-0; ISBN 0-415-28012-5 (second
edition). Rita Felski, “Literature After Feminism” ISBN
0-226-24115-7 Annette Kolodny. “Dancing through the Minefield: Some Observations
on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of a Feminist Literary Criticism.” Adele Reinhartz. “Jewish Women’s Scholarly Writings on the
Bible.” Elisabeth Fiorenza, feminist Bible scholar. Susan Fraiman “The Humiliation of Elizabeth
Bennett” Robbin Hillary VanNewkirk “Third Wave Feminist
History and the Politics of Being Visible and Being Real”http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=wsi_theses
Elaine Showalter A Literature of their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing. ISBN 978-0691004761 (Expanded Edition)
Hélène Cixous The Laugh of the Medusa. ISBN 978-0415049306
Mary Eagleton, Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader. ISBN 978-1405183130==External links==
The “Feminist Theory and Criticism” article series from the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary
Theory and Criticism (subscription required): 1963-1972
Anglo-American Feminisms Poststructuralist Feminisms
Materialist Feminisms

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