Feminist literary criticism

Posted: September 19, 2007 in feminism, Literary Criticsm

Feminist literary criticism is literary criticism informed by feminist theory, or by the politics of feminism more broadly. Its history has been broad and varied, 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. In the most general and simple terms, feminist literary criticism before the 1970s — in the first and second waves of feminism — was concerned with the politics of women’s authorship and the representation of women’s condition within literature. Since the arrival of more complex conceptions of gender and subjectivity and third-wave feminism, feminist literary criticism has taken a variety of new routes. It has 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.[1] It has been closely associated with the birth and growth of queer studies. And the more traditionally central feminist concern with the representation and politics of women’s lives has continued to play an active role in criticism.

Lisa Tittle has defined feminist theory as asking “new questions of old texts.” [citation needed] She cites the goals of feminist criticism as: (1) To develop and uncover a female tradition of writing, (2) to interpret symbolism of women’s writing so that it will not be lost or ignored by the male point of view, (3) to rediscover old texts, (4) to analyze women writers and their writings from a female perspective, (5) to resist sexism in literature, and (6) to increase awareness of the sexual politics of language and style.

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.”

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