Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Feminist Theory

Feminism for most people is typically associated with political and social roots. This association of feminism with political values is not just present in the US or Western world, but globally. In my own life, I have mainly studied Feminist theory in sociology courses. Beyond the academic scene, feminist ideals and theories are presented via different images in the media and popular publications. In my own experience, I have very little experience, up until this class, with using feminist theory in relation to literature. With the ambivalence surrounding feminism in general, in came as no surprise to me that feminist literary criticism was just as ambivalent.

Feminist literary theory is most simply broken down into two parts. One being the role of the female author in a patriarchal society, the second being the way in which female subjects are portrayed throughout literary history by male authors. With this aspect of the literary theory in mind, it is important to see its relevance in a larger societal aspect. Yes, it is important to analyze a man’s projection of women in his writings as well as the exclusion on women’s works in the canon, but what feminist literary theory provides are more grounds for the overall feminist movement. How a character is portrayed in a novel is a true reflection of the cultural and political society of the time in which it was written in. Also, it is important to see how a female author chooses to vocalize herself in a literary context, what is it about her works that is or is not an asset to the feminist movement?

Beyond how feminist literary criticism affects feminism as a whole, it is important to view feminist literary criticism in connection with other theories. I can directly see how it relates to Marxist criticism as well as Freud. It is also apparent that feminist literary theory is reflective of other theories such as post-structuralism. Mantissa is a good example of not just feminist literary criticism within a novel but also how other theories relate in the text. As new waves of feminism are branching perspectives on the theory, I believe that Marxist literary criticism will be connected more with feminist literary criticism in terms of how women in different social classes are affected in a patriarchal society.


A. Crawford said...

Great ideas explaining how it is important to look to the authors view of women during certain time periods. This can provide useful knowledge of how women are portrayed in different times, so we can identify strides taken for rights of women in our society.

Kate said...

I think about the connection between the various forms of feminism and marxism often as well. I'd imagine that many feminists also are very interested in how race and class factor into a complex system of power that bestows privilege on so few.