FEMINIST CRITICISM. Feminism emerged out of the late nineteenth century and has evolved ever since to encompass women’s political and social rights as well as a range of socioeconomic classes and racial ethnicities. . At the root of any feminist approach are three assumptions:.
FEMINIST CRITICISM Feminism emerged out of the late nineteenth century and has evolved ever since to encompass women’s political and social rights as well as a range of socioeconomic classes and racial ethnicities. At the root of any feminist approach are three assumptions: • Whether consciously or unconsciously, men have always oppressed women and have denied them a voice in the political, social, economic, and cultural spheres • By denying women their voices, the male definition of what it means to be a woman has dominated • As a result, men have classified women as the “nonsignificant Other” J. Howard Miller. “We Can Do It!” 1943.
KEY FEMINIST THINKERS • Virginia Woolf: • “A Room of One’s Own” (1929) • Women are prevented from engaging in the same educational or professional pursuits as men • A woman’s inner talents will never develop and flourish as a result, unless she has a “room of her own” http://www.acrossthepage.net/2012/03/a-room-of-ones-own/
Simone de Beauvoir: • “The Second Sex” (1949) • Beauvoir traces the way in which human societies are fundamentally patriarchal • Men have defined what it means to be a woman, and as a result, they have positioned women as the Other – “an object whose existence is defined and interpreted by the male, the dominant being in society” (Bressler, 146). www.amazon.com
Elaine Showalter: • “A Literature of Their Own” (1977) • Male academics who helped to define literary studies have intentionally excluded women authors from the literary canon • Showalter argues that gynocriticism is necessary; this involves approaching literary texts with female analytic frameworks that are independent of those developed and used by men http://press.princeton.edu/titles/1917.html
What feminist criticism looks to achieve. . . • In order to challenge the patriarchal order, feminist critics “analyze and challenge the established literary canon that has helped shape the images of female inferiority and subordination ingrained in our culture” (Bressler154). • As a result of this process, feminist critics argue that women’s literary contributions will be affirmed and their positions in society and culture will be validated. • A feminist approach will aim to challenge texts in which women are positioned as: angels/demons, virgins/whores, brainless housewives/eccentric spinsters. Such characterizations enable patriarchy to suppress women and thereby maintain the male dominant order.
Questions that a feminist critic might ask: • Is the author male or female? Is the text narrated by a male or female? • What types of roles do women have in the text? • Are the female characters the protagonists or secondary and minor characters? • Do any stereotypical characterizations of women appear? • What are the attitudes toward women held by the male characters? • What is the author’s attitude toward women in society? How does the author’s culture influence his or her attitude? • Is feminine imagery used? If so, what is the significance of such imagery? • Do the female characters speak differently than do the male characters? In your investigation, compare the frequency of speech for the male characters to the frequency of speech for the female characters. (Bressler 156)