T2 - Essays in Feminist Criticism

1.1 Defining Feminist Literary criticism

Charlotte Perkins Gilman is known as the first American writer who has feminist approach. Gilman criticises inequality between male and female during her life, hence it is mostly possible to see the traces of feminist approach in her works. She deals with the struggles and obstacles which women face in patriarchal society. Moreover, Gilman argues that marriages cause the subordination of women, because male is active, whereas female plays a domestic role in the marriage. Gilman also argues that the…

women actually are. By looking at the roles in which men place those fictional women, we can examine the “cultural ‘mind-set’ in men and women which perpetuates cultural inequality” (Barry 122). This representation of women is a main concern of feminist literary critics. Women characters in classical drama, such as Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, are not so much realistic, well-rounded female characters, but figments of a classical male imagination. The representations of the women in Lysistrata are unrealistic…

minded, and the French which is more theoretical. Feminist approaches draw from at least four areas of contemporary critical thoughts: historical (including Marxist), psychoanalytic, reader-response, and deconstructive theory. Feminist criticism therefore gains much of its validity from a variety of other critical approaches. The main concern of feminist literary criticism is the "feminist language." Elaine Showalter argues that "The task of feminist critics is to find a new intelligence and our experience…


Elaine Showalter coined the term gynocritics in her 1979 essay “Towards a Feminist Poetics.” Unlike feminist literary criticism, which might analyze works by male authors from a feminist perspective, gynocriticism wanted to establish a literary tradition of women without incorporating male authors. Elaine Showalter felt that feminist criticism still worked within male assumptions, while gynocriticism would begin a new phase of women’s self-discovery.

"Feminist Criticism". Anti Essays. 10 Nov. 2017

Feminist literary criticism is distinguished from gynocriticism because feminist literary criticism may also analyze and deconstruct literary works of men.

Archimedes and the Paradox of Feminist Criticism

2 Feminist criticism in the Renaissance and seventeenth century Helen Wilcox

Feminist critics of Shakespeare's works are often the subject of critiques—this is due in part to the tension that exists between feminist critics and critics of other branches of criticism. Jonathan Dollimore (1990) critiques various feminist approaches to Shakespearean studies. He explains and defends the approach of cultural materialism as a method of Shakespearean criticism, and responds to feminist critics of this approach. Lynda E. Boose (1987) traces the evolution of feminist criticism, particularly in regard to the treatment of marriage, sex, and family. Boose also discusses feminist debate over Shakespeare's own attitude toward patriarchy and the subordination of women. Feminist criticism is also the subject of Peter Erickson's 1997 essay. Erickson outlines the development of feminist criticism in America, and argues that there is a stark contrast between what he views as prefeminist criticism, before 1980, and feminist criticism after 1980. The year marks a shift, Erickson asserts, toward an emphasis in feminist criticism on culture and ideology. Erickson concludes by reviewing a new wave of feminist criticism which provides an expanded framework for viewing “otherness” in such characters as Shylock and Othello.

4 The feminist criticism of Virginia Woolf

Under the umbrella of “feminist criticism” there is a wide range of critical practices and approaches to Shakespeare's works, and each of these approaches has its own supporters and detractors. Due to the diverse array of feminist studies, many feminist critics hesitate to posit a general description of what, exactly, feminist criticism is. It has been observed, however, that feminist criticism reflects the assorted theoretical positions of the feminist movement. Common topics of feminist studies of Shakespeare include examinations of patriarchy, gender and sex roles, and the relationship between gender and power in Shakespeare's plays. It is generally agreed that feminist criticism of Shakespeare as a “movement” began in the mid-1970s. Richard Levin (1988) cites Juliet Dusinberre's publication of in 1975 and the Modern Language Association's special session of feminist criticism in 1976 as the genesis of the feminist criticism movement in Shakespeare studies.

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A feminist analysis of Dracula There has been, thankfully, a great shift since the chastened "New Women" of Bram Stoker's Dracula, as noted by critic Phyllis A. Roth "For both the Victorians and twentieth century readers, much of the novel's great appeal comes from its hostility toward female sexuality"1 That hostility has been a source for female transformation from the post feminist era of the 1960's to the present day. Stoker's familiarity with the feminist movement in Victorian England and his apparent support of equality between men and woman based on an intellectual level leaves us with the question of why does his support appear to draw the line when it comes to sexual equality. Stoker's personal life regarding his different relationships with women is what may suggest the motivations behind his ambivalence towards the "New Woman". So it can be said that Stoker's treatment of women in Dracula does not stem from his hatred of women in general but from his ambivalent reaction to the concept of the "New Woman". Stoker's Dracula is a window through which we can see the Victorian society. We see how Stoker is sympathetic towards the limitations placed upon women in the society, but he also does not see women as completely equal. The absence of total equality in "Dracula" shows a view point which is somewhere between Victorian standards of the 1890's and where we like to think we are today in the 21st Century.

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Character studies often form the focus of feminist analyses of Shakespeare's works. Feminist critics such as Janet Adelman (1985) examine the way in which various characters are portrayed and perceived. Adelman studies the portrayal of Cressida in and maintains that the play enacts the fantasy of Cressida's inconstancy. At the moment when Cressida is separated from Troilus, Adelman explains, Cressida becomes “radically unknowable, irreducibly other,” and due to the inconsistent way Cressida is portrayed, the other characters in the play, as well as the audience, are forced to view Cressida in the same way. Like Adelman, Sharon M. Harris (1990) studies the portrayal of Cressida. Harris reviews six traditional critical responses to her character: she is ignored, viewed as a whore, thought to possess an inherent limitation or frailty, thought to behave in accordance with a particular theatrical convention, viewed as synonymous with society's disorder, and thought to behave in the only way possible given her circumstances and environment. Harris identifies the way feminist critics have responded to each of the categorizations of Cressida and notes that feminist critics have found new ways in which to analyze her character. Similarly, Sharon Ouditt (1996) outlines the various methods by which feminist critics examine Shakespeare's characters. Ouditt selects three feminist critics who have studied 's Gertrude, and uses these studies to elucidate different feminist perspectives. Ouditt then identifies the problems inherent with these approaches.