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Feminist Perspective of Literary Criticism

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Andrew Le

on 20 April 2010

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Transcript of Feminist Perspective of Literary Criticism

"...whiteness was part of Ophelia's essential feminine symbolism...[y]et whiteness also made her a transparency, an absence that took on the colors of Hamlet's moods, and that...made her a blank page to be written over or on by the male imagination." "Shakespeare gives us very little information from which to imagine a past for Ophelia. She appears in only five of the play's twenty scenes; the pre-play course of her love story with Hamlet is known only by a few ambiguous flashbacks. Her tragedy is subordinated in the play." "The mad Ophelia's bawdy songs and verbal license, while they give her access to “an entirely different range of experience” from what she is allowed as the dutiful daughter, seem to be her one sanctioned form of self-assertion as a woman, quickly followed, as if in retribution, by her death." Feminist criticism examines the social, economic, and cultural aspects of literary works, but esp. for what those works reveal about the role, position, and influence of the women.

Feminist critics seek to redress the imbalance of literary study in which all important books are written by men or the only characters of real interest are male protagonists.

Feminist critics have begun to study relatively unknown women writers, to look at the way the female mind has been portrayed in literature written by both men and women, and to change the nature of the questions asked about literature that reflect predominantly male experience. According to M.H. Abrams, there are four central tenets of feminist criticism:
1. Western civilization is male-centered and controlled in such a way that subordinates women in familial, religious, political, economic, social, legal, and artistic domains.
2. The prevailing concepts of gender are largely cultural constructs that were generated by biases of our civilization.
3. All "great" literature has been pervaded by masculinist ideology and has been, until recently, written mostly by men for men.
4. The traditional criteria for analyzing literature are infused with masculine assumptions, interests, and ways of reasoning.
Four Central Tenets Feminist Perspective What is it? "For most critics of Shakespeare, Ophelia has been an insignificant minor character in the play, touching in her weakness and madness but chiefly interesting, of course, in what she tells us about Hamlet." “We can imagine Hamlet's story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet.” THE END O
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