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Feminist Criticism: The basics
Transcript of Feminist Criticism: The basics
Feminist criticism is concerned with "...the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women" (Tyson). This school of theory looks at how aspects of our culture are inherently patriarchal (male dominated) and "...this critique strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male writing about women" (Richter 1346). This misogyny, Tyson reminds us, can extend into diverse areas of our culture: "Perhaps the most chilling example...is found in the world of modern medicine, where drugs prescribed for both sexes often have been tested on male subjects only" (83).
Feminist criticism is also concerned with less obvious forms of marginalization such as the exclusion of women writers from the traditional literary canon: "...unless the critical or historical point of view is feminist, there is a tendency to under-represent the contribution of women writers" (Tyson).
Common Space in Feminist Theories
Women are oppressed by patriarchy economically, politically, socially, and psychologically; patriarchal ideology is the primary means by which they are kept so
In every domain where patriarchy reigns, woman is other: she is marginalized, defined only by her difference from male norms and values
All of western (Anglo-European) civilization is deeply rooted in patriarchal ideology, for example, in the biblical portrayal of Eve as the origin of sin and death in the world
Common space continued...
While biology determines our sex (male or female), culture determines our gender (masculine or feminine)
Gender issues play a part in every aspect of human production and experience, including the production and experience of literature, whether we are consciously aware of these issues or not.
All feminist activity, including feminist theory and literary critzicism, has as its ultimate goal to change the world by prompting gender equality
Typical questions to explore Feminist Literature
How is the relationship between men and women portrayed?
What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming male/female roles)?
How are male and female roles defined?
What constitutes masculinity and femininity?
How do characters embody these traits?
Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How so? How does this change others’ reactions to them?
What does the work reveal about the operations (economically, politically, socially, or psychologically) of patriarchy?
What does the work imply about the possibilities of sisterhood as a mode of resisting patriarchy?
What does the work say about women's creativity?
What does the history of the work's reception by the public and by the critics tell us about the operation of patriarchy?
What role does the work play in terms of women's literary history and literary tradition?