AD's English Literature : Feminist Criticism: A Brief Survey

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Feminist Criticism: A Brief Survey

 Perhaps more than any other mode of criticism, feminist theory has cut across and drawn on multiple and contradictory traditions which by presenting what is arguably one of the most fundamental challenges to previous critical orthodoxies in its revolution of subjectively and the category of experience. Like Marxism, feminism is rooted in the political discourses of modernity. Not only Marxism, but also psycho-analysis of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan and post structuralist views, especially deconstruction of Jacques Derrida are considered crucial in feminism. Read More Criticism Feminist criticism as a self aware and concerted approach to literature was not inaugurated until late in the 1900’s. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), John Stuart Mill’s The subjection of women (1869) and Margaret Fuller’s Women in Nineteenth Century are such texts, which are indubitably the landmark in the history of feminist movement. Read More Criticism

But what is most important to note that Virginia Woolf was an outstanding precursor of feminist criticism. In her fictions and essays, most notably in A Room of one’s Own, she attack the patriarchal bias which prohibited women’s creative possibility. A seminal text is indeed  Simonede Beuvior. The second Sex, which identifies women as cultural construct and reveals the fact that women are regarded as merely negative object or ‘other’, while men are defined as dominating subject. Similarly, Mary Ellaman’s Thinking doubt women – with which feminist criticism began in America shows the derogatory stereotypes of women in literature written by women. Another important text which attacks the sexual bias in Freud’s psycho analytical theory is Kote Millet’s sexual politics.

Although early second time feminist criticism drew extensively on de Beauviars works and on Kate Millet’s “sexual politics” and concentrated its analysis on the images of women represented in and constructed through cultural forms such as literature, it has been viewed by later feminist as often failing to offer an adequate analysis of the relationship between ideology and representation. But in spite of the difference in their points of view and procedures some assumptions and concerts are quite basic in this critical mode, western civilization is patriarchal. Read More Criticism Just as logo centricism emphasis the extent to which metaphysical assumption about the superiority of speech over writing are built into language itself, phantasmagorical implies that masculine biases are profoundly related to the structures of meta physics. Even the patriarchal ideology is dominant in those writings which we consider great literature. For example, Oedipus, Ulysses, Hamlet, Tom Jones, Captain Ahab – some well known male protagonists in some highly regarded literary works – embody masculine traits and ways of feeling and pursue masculine interests in masculine fields of action. As Simone de Beauvoir remarked, ‘one is not barn but rather becomes, a woman……’. While male is identified as active, dominative and rational feminine is identified as passive, submissive and emotional. If Kate Mallet attacks D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Norman Mailer etc., by analyzing some selected passages of their works for degrading women as submissive sexual objects, most of feminists praise Chaucer, Shakespeare and G. B. Shaw who rise above sexual prejudice.

A great impetus is given to their critical approach when Flaine Showalter proposes gynocriticism which is mare self contained and experimental and which is concerned with developing and specifically female frame work for dealing with works written by men, and with feminine subject matters in literature written by woman and also with an attempt to specify the traits of a woman’s language. Read More Criticism Flaine showalter, however, led much emphasis on woman as a writer rather than woman as a reader. Elaine showalter’s A Literature of their Own: British women Novelist from Brontei to Lessing, Patricia Meyer spacks’s The Female Imagination Ellen, Moers’s Literary women, Sandra Gillert and Susan Gular’s The Madowomen in the Attic are some notable works in their made. To evade the dilemma, namely women’s language, Helene Cixous posits ecriture feminine (feminine writing) and Julia Kristeva posits a chora, or pre-linguistic signifying system that she labels ‘semiotics’.

            Thus, feminist literary criticism was influenced by multiple literary theories and criticism and congregate them into an organic whole so as to expose objective reality. Read More Criticism As Elaine Showalter has observed, “English feminist criticism, essentially Marxist, stresses oppression, French feminist criticism, essentially psycho-analytic, stresses repression; American feminist Criticism, essentially textual, stresses expression”.        

Ardhendu De            


  1. Welcome Hemani. Thanks for following my posts.

  2. Sir could you pls explain Kristeva's Women's times?

  3. sir can you please help me with linguistics?


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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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