Second –wave feminism was inspired by the political activism of the 60s and connected historically with the first-wave feminism which produced the Declaration of Women’s Rights in 1848 and culminated in the campaign for women suffrage during the early twentieth century. • Feminist study of literature has generated a commitment to recovering forgotten, ignored, silenced or disguised past women writers.
Thisrecovery has ledtothe re-reading of literarytextsbymen. • Writingbymenisexploredbyfeministreadersfortheways in whichitincorporatesreplicatesorperpetuatesthepatriarchallyinflectedrelationshipsbetweenmen and women. • Kate Millet’sattackonthewritings of Freud and Lawrence in herSexual Politicsis a classicexample. • ElaineShowalter’sALiterature of TheirOwnor Gilbert and Gubar’sTheMadwoman in theAtticproducedpioneeringworks of second-wave feminism.
These identified the presence of a literary history pertaining to women and promoted both a feminist critique (concerned with women readers) and a gynocritics (concerned with women writers). • New French Feminism is a group of French feminists who celebrated the specificity of feminine discourse as a way of contesting traditional patriarchal constructs of sexual difference.
Gilbert and Gubar’sTheMadwoman in theAtticarguethat Jane Austencreated a paradigm of thedoubletextwhichpaidlip-servicetopatriarchalliterarystandardsevenwhileitsubvertedthem. • Theyalsoaddressthereality of womenauthors’ exclusionfromthepredominantlymalepantheon of literaryworks. • Theychallengemale-centeredtheories of literarycreativitysuch as Harold Bloom’s“anxiety of influence” theory, byproposinganalternativeanxiety of authorship.
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre problematizes the female stereotypes of angel (Jane) or monster (Bertha or the madwoman in the attic). • They have been criticized for over-emphasizing the narrative of female victimization • and for focusing of other determinants in the lives too narrowly on writing to the exclusion of women: class, ideology, sexuality, history, etc. • or for ignoring other concerns as well as literary output, as regards women authors of colour.
Concern with language, the textualizing of sex or gender: whether or not one can speak of gender in language. • The masculine text and its divergence from the feminine text, already addressed by Woolf in A Room of One’s Own re-emerged in the 60-70s • coinciding with the post-structuralist exploration of signification through textuality and the influential language-based theories of Lacan.
Cixous, one of the members of The New French Feminism (Kristeva, Irigaray) coined the term écriture féminine in The Laugh of the Medusa where she advocates a type of writing that challenges language patterns expressive of male totalizing assumptions and practices and • advocates (defends)the de-emphasizing of the gender of the writer (female) in favour of the writing effect” of the text (feminine).
Male textual practice has favoured an abstract analytical discourse from which women have been excluded on the grounds of their supposed inferior capacity for these forms of expression and thought. • Cixous claims that the problem is not the barren of women from theoretical language but the low value placed on feminine discourse. • Écriture féminine places emphasis on the gendering of writing rather than on the gender of the writer.
Men are not barred from this practice; Joyce is a writer close to this. The greatest impediment to women’s recognition in literature lies in the nature of their relationship to language. • Kristeva, close to Derrida, Barthes and other structuralists and post-structuralists, accepts Lacan’s proposition that in order for the child to gain mastery of the language with all its associations of definition and control, the child must enter the Symbolic order which is male-gendered and phallocentric.
GILBERT AND GUBARTheMadwoman in theAttic: TheWomanWriter and the 19thCenturyLiteraryImagination • Strengths and limitations of second –wave feminism. • Pulledbetweenseparatists and assimilationisttendencies (disavowthegivenorder and formtheirowncommunitiesorstrivingforequaltreatment. • TheMadwoman in theAtticreflectsthepressuresfrombothsides. • Allpartiesassumedthatallwomenshared a set of similar experiences and thatpatriarchyisessentiallythesameeverywhere. • This has beenchallengedlateronbyBarbara Smith or Judith Butler.
The Madwoman in the Attic is a reference to Bertha, Rochester’s hidden first wife. • She stands for everything the woman writer must try to repress to write books acceptable by male standards. • Psychological approach to literature. • Focus on the psychic cost of repression and on bodily symptoms resulting from that societal oppression. • The woman who speaks out is branded an “active monster”, the woman that remains silent risks madness.
Gilbert and Gubar attended to the strategies women had adopted to survive in a male dominated society, thus focusing on the world that most women inhabit. • Recovery of women’s histories and celebration of women’s successes.
Theyopposed Harold Bloom’s “anxiety of influence” accordingtowhich a maleauthorfeltfear he wasnothisowncreator. • Strongpoetswere at warwiththeirprecursors. • LiteraryOedipalstrugglemodel, typicallypatriarchal. • He describes literaryhistory as a warfare of fathers and sons. Thepoeticprocessdefined as a sexual encounterbetween a malepoet and hisfemalemuse. Itdoesn’tfitwomen.
Gilbert and Gubar talk about: Anxiety for authorship: an isolation that felt like illness, an alienation that felt like madness as women writers of the 19th century wrote in defiance of the social injunction that writing wasn’t a woman’s work. • A fear that she cannot create, because she cannot become a precursor, writing can destroy/isolate her.
Women’s battle is not against their male precursors’ reading of the world but against his reading of them (women). • In order to define herself as an author she must redefine the terms of her socialization, what Adrienne Rich has called re-vision: the act of looking back, of entering an old text from a new critical direction.
The woman writer experiences her gender as a painful obstacle. She is victimized by the inferiorized and alternative psychology of women under patriarchy. • As Elaine Showalter suggests: women writers participate in a quite different subculture from that inhabited by male writers. • Contemporary women writers’ energy and authority stems from the 18th and 19th century foremothers who struggled in isolation that felt the anxiety to authorship as an illness, an alienation, a madness, a paralysis to overcome.
Criticized by their treatment of women as a unitary category and their omission of non-white women writers. • Not all women had the same fundamental experiences and women writers could not be judged according to one universal standard. • The exploration of difference challenged the notion of “sisterhood” (70s assumption that all women shared certain similarities and would gain political unity through their common experience of being oppressed).
Feminist and Queer Theory • Feminist criticism: part of the broader feminist political movement that seeks to rectify sexist discrimination and inequalities. • Feminist theory and criticism: revolutionary change to literary and cultural studies by expanding the canon, by critiquing sexist representation and values, by stressing the importance of gender and sexuality, by proposing institutional and social reforms.
Theorists of a “feminist aesthetic” argue that women have a literature of their own, possessing its own images, themes, characters, forms, styles, and canons. • Elaine Showalter: Women writers form a subculture sharing distinctive economic, politic, and professional realities, all of which help determine specific problems and artistic preoccupations that mark women’s literature.
Sandra M. Gilbert & Susan Gubar: 19th women writers had to negotiate alienation and psychological disease to attain literary authority, which they achieved by reclaiming the heritage of female creativity, remembering their lost foremothers, and refusing the debilitating cultural roles of “angel” and “monster” assigned to them by patriarchal society.
Countering Bloom’s masculinist “anxiety of influence”, their “anxiety of authorship” depicts the precursor poet as a sister or mother whose example enables the creativity of the latecomer writer to develop collaboratively against male literary authority.
Diseases common among women in male-dominated, misogynistic society include: agoraphobia, anorexia, bulimia, claustrophobia, hysteria, and madness in general, and they recur in the images, themes, and characters of women’s literature.
Judith Fetterley: Women read differently than men. She examines classic American fiction and points out that this is not “universal” but masculine literature, which forces women readers to identify against themselves. • Such literature neither expresses nor legitimates women’s experiences, and in reading it women have to think as men, identify with male viewpoints, accept male values and interests, and tolerate sexist hostility and oppression.
Under such conditions, women must become “resistingreaders” rather than assenting ones, using feminist criticism to challenge male domination of the institutions of literature and to change society.
Psychoanalysisis fundamental to a greatdeal of feministtheory and criticism. • However, feministpsychoanalysisistypicallyrevisionist. It has hadtoworkthrough and criticizethephallo-centric” presuppositions and prejudices of Freud, Lacan, and others. • Feminineanxiety of authorship, in itsoppositiontothemasculineanxiety of influence, reconfigures the “oedipal” relationshipbetweenwriters as cooperative and nurturingratherthancompetitive and rivalrous.
ÉcriturefémininetransformsLacan’s idea of theImaginary, casting itnotsimply as aninfantilesphere of primary drives superseded (reemplazar) onthewaytothepatriarchalSymbolicorder, but as a liberatingdomain of bodilyrhythms and pulsationsassociatedwiththemotherthatpermeatesliterature, especiallymodern experimental poetry. • The pre-SymbolicImaginaryorder, a realm of bisexual/ androgynous/polymorphoussexuality, opens thepossibility of sexual liberationfromthesuffocating confines of the “compulsoryheterosexuality” thatdominatespatriarchalculture.
Within feminist circles, there are political differences and conflicts of interests: colour/white women, different classes, different sexualities, different nations and groups. • The “politics of difference” opens onto a world of differences and multiple identities among and within women themselves. The politics of difference promotes two ideas: there are many women’s literatures across the globe and there are many modes of resisting reading.
Some criticise that the emphasis on the multiplicity of female identities undermines the united front of feminist but advocates (defiende) of the politics of difference think that herding all women into a homogeneous category is reductive and unlikely to disturb the dominant order.
Feminism vs Queertheory • An influential field built on ideas from feminist criticism, gender studies, women’s studies, and lesbian and gay studies is queer theory. • It begins by criticizing the dominant heterosexual binary, masculine/feminine, which enthrones “the” two sexes and casts other sexualities as abnormal, illicit or criminal. • Queer theory attacks the homophobic and patriarchal basis of heterosexuality.
It aims beyond lesbian and gay rights philosophies to study other so-called perverse, deviant, and alternative sexualities (sodomite, hermaphrodite, homosexual…), stressing the socially constructed character of sexualities. • Of particular interest are transgressive phenomena such as drug, camp, cross dressing and transexuality, which highlight the nonbiological, performative aspects of gender construction. • To be masculine or feminine requires practicing an array of rituals which cross-dressers parody in the production of gender identity.