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Feminist Criticism. Examines ways in which literature reinforces or undermines the oppression of women. Economically Socially Politically Psychologically. Men Rational Strong Protective Decisive. Women Emotional (irrational) Weak Nurturing Submissive. Traditional Gender Roles.

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Feminist Criticism


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    1. Feminist Criticism • Examines ways in which literature reinforces or undermines the oppression of women. • Economically • Socially • Politically • Psychologically

    2. Men Rational Strong Protective Decisive Women Emotional (irrational) Weak Nurturing Submissive Traditional Gender Roles

    3. Traditional gender roles have been used successfully to justify inequities such as excluding women from equal access to leadership and decision-making positions and paying men higher wages than women for doing the same job.

    4. Biological Essentialism • Belief of inborn inferiority • based on biological differences between the sexes that are part of our unchanging essence as men and women • Example: hysteria

    5. Feminists don’t deny biological differences • don’t agree that differences in physical size, shape, and body chemistry make men naturally superior to women • more intelligent • more logical • better leaders

    6. The inferior position long occupied by women in a patriarchal society has been culturally, not biologically, produced.

    7. Arguments Against Feminist Premises • Western society has actually been structured to protect women from the brutalities of war and commerce, allowing them to be nurturers, mothers, and homemakers. • Rather than exploiting or suppressing women, it actually celebrates and cherishes them.

    8. Counter Argument by Feminists • Assumes suppression and exclusion. • If a woman is put on a pedestal, she can’t do much of anything up there. • Assumes women are weaker sex, needing protection. • Assumes women are unable to compete with men. • Disallows for the fact that some women are physically and mentally stronger than some men.

    9. Roots of Feminism • Men have oppressed women. • allowing them little or no voice in the political, social, or economic issues of their society

    10. Roots of Feminism • By not giving voice and value to women’s opinions, responses, and writings, men have therefore suppressed the female, defined what it means to be feminine, and thereby de-voiced, devalued, and trivialized what it means to be a woman; and…

    11. Goal of Feminism • Therefore, feminism’s goal is to change these degrading views of women so that all women will realize they are not a “nonsignificant Other” and will realize that each woman is a valuable person possessing the same privileges and rights as every man.

    12. Roots of Feminism • Women must define themselves and assert their own voices in the arenas of politics, society, education, and the arts. • By personally committing themselves to fostering such change, feminists hope to create a society in which not only the male but also the female voice is equally valued.

    13. Historical Roots of Feminism • According to feminist criticism, the roots of prejudice against women have long been embedded in Western culture. • Some say it originated with biblical narrative where the fall of man is blamed on Eve, not Adam.

    14. Historical Roots of Feminism • According to feminist criticism, the roots of prejudice against women have long been embedded in Western culture. • Ancient Greeks (Aristotle) ”The man is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules and the other is ruled.”

    15. Roots of Feminism • Not until the early 1900s (Progressive Era) that the major roots of feminist criticism began to grow. • Women gained the right to vote • Women became prominent activists in the social issues of the day • Health care • Education • Politics • literature

    16. History of Feminist Criticism • Feminism in 1960s and 1970s • Feminist critics began to examine the traditional literary canon • Discovered examples that supported assertions of Beauvoir and Millet • that males considered the female “the Other” • male dominance and prejudice

    17. History of Feminist Criticism • Feminism in 1960s and 1970s • Feminist critics began to examine the traditional literary canon • Stereotypes of women • Sex maniacs • Goddesses of beauty • Mindless entities • Old spinsters

    18. History of Feminist Criticism • Feminism in 1960s and 1970s • Feminist critics began to examine the traditional literary canon • found male authors in established literary canon: Dickens, Wordsworth, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Twain, etc. • Found few females achieved such status • Roles of female, fictionalized characters were limited to secondary positions • More frequently than not as minor parts within story or as stereotypical images • Female scholars such as Woolf and Beauvior were ignored • Works seldom referred to by male critics of literary canon

    19. History of Feminist Criticism • Feminism in 1960s and 1970s • Feminist critics began to examine the traditional literary canon • Asserted that the males who created and gained prominence in canon assumed all readers were male. • Most university professors were males • Women reading such works were trained to read as if they were males.

    20. History of Feminist Criticism • Feminism in 1960s and 1970s • Feminist critics began to examine the traditional literary canon • Brought about existence of a female reader who was affronted by the male prejudices abounding in the canon. • Brought about questions concerning the male and female qualities of literary form, style, voice, and theme. • By 1970s, books that defined women’s writings in feminine terms flourished.

    21. History of Feminist Criticism • Feminism in 1960s and 1970s • Having highlighted the importance of gender • Feminist critics began to rediscover literary works authored by females that had been dismissed or deemed inferior by their male counterparts, unworthy to be a part of the canon. • Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899) • Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (1962)

    22. Feminist Criticism • No one critical theory of writing dominates feminist criticism; few theorists agree upon a unifying feminist approach to textual analysis. • American: textual, stressing repression • British: Marxist, stressing oppression • French: psychoanalytic, stressing repression

    23. Feminist Criticism • Asserts that most of our literature presents a masculine-patriarchal view in which the role of women is negated or at best minimized.

    24. Feminist View • Attempts to show that writers of traditional literature have ignored women and have transmitted misguided and prejudiced views of them; • Attempts to stimulate the creation of a critical environment that reflects a balanced view of the nature and value of women;

    25. Feminist View • Attempts to recover the works of women writers of past times and to encourage the publication of present women writers so that the literary canon may be expanded to recognize women as thinkers and artists; and • Urges transformations in the language to eliminate inequities and inequalities that result from linguistic distortions.

    26. Questions for Analysis • 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.