Feminism in English Literature

Feminist literary criticism

is literary criticism informed by feminist theory, or by the politics of feminism more broadly. It can be understood as using feminist principles and ideological discourses to critique the language of literature, its structure and being. This school of thought seeks to describe and analyze the ways in which literature portrays the narrative of male domination in regard to female bodies by exploring the economic, social, political, and psychological forces embedded within literature.

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 general, feminist literary criticism before the 1970s—in the first and second waves of feminism—was concerned with women's authorship and the representation of women's condition within literature; including the depiction of fictional female characters. In addition, feminist criticism was concerned with the exclusion of women from the literary canon.

Lois Tyson suggests this is because the views of women authors are often not considered to be universal ones.

Since the development of more complex conceptions of gender and subjectivity and third-wave feminism, feminist literary criticism has taken a variety of new routes, namely in the tradition of the Frankfurt School's critical theory. 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. It has been closely associated with the birth and growth of queer studies. The more traditionally central feminist concern with the representation and politics of women's lives has continued to play an active role in criticism. More specifically, modern feminist criticism deals with those issues related to the perceived intentional and unintentional patriarchal programming within key aspects of society including education, politics and the work force.

Lisa Tuttle has defined feminist theory as asking "new questions of old texts." 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.

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