Ragesree (1537251) – Gender Studies : Feminist Literary Theory

Palkar,Sarla. “Feminist Literary Theory: Creating New Maps.” Women’s Writing : Text and Context Delhi : OUP, 2009. 11-19. Print

The author aims to define feminist literary theory within the domains of anti-patriarchy and the political approaches it infuses in literature. The essay posits that literary criticism through a feminist lens did not feature among the initial focuses of the feminist movement. Instead, social and political changes constituted the major concerns. She states :

The feminists who worked in academic institutions became convinced that literature and literary criticism were powerful cultural weapons in the hands of male hegemony to perpetuate its sexual politics in the name of universality, objectivity, and neutrality. (15)

The essay claims that the above statement can be counteracted by the feminist school of criticism which propounds that no “account”, whether it is “creative”, “critical”, or “theoretical” can be “neutral”. The author cites the personal bias and prejudice of the various writers as the evident reasons for this claim. She quotes Elaine Showalter :

In its earliest years, feminist criticism concentrated on exposing the misogyny of literary practices : the stereotyped images of women in literature as angels or monsters, the literary abuse or textual harassment of women in classic and popular male literature and the exclusion of women from literary history (Showalter 17)

The essay argues that feminism has taken a developed structure after being recreated in literature through novels. The author supports this argument with examples from books like The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics and Katherine M.Roger’s The Troublesome Helpmate.

The essay concludes that feminist critics range across liberal humanist the deconstructionist. The author refers to Julia Kristeve’s notions about the feminist struggle which is a three tiered one – liberal feminism, radical feminism, rejection of the male female dichotomy.

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