Women – sources of inspiration. They could succeed in writing only when they were economically and financially independent.
ü History of women’s writing:
- Feminine phase (1840-80): women writers imitated dominant male artistic norms and aesthetic standards.
- Feminist phase (1880-1920): radical and often separatist positions are maintained
- Female phase (1920 onwards): focus on female writing and female experience
- 1960s: ‘women’s movement’
- 1970s: exposing the ‘mechanisms of patriarchy’
- 1980s: influence of Marxism, structuralism, linguistics etc.
ü Feminist critics:
- describing the history of women in terms of suppression by a patriarchal system;
- distinguishing between natural (sex) and cultural/social (gender) attributes of womanhood;
- gender is not biologically determined but depends on social agreements, codes, conventions, tacit assumptions and acknowledged expectations.
ü Feminist criticism and language: a ‘man’s sentence’ - completely different from a ‘woman’s sentence’.
- Hélène Cixous
· écriture feminine ~ ‘female spelling’
· associated with the feminine, and facilitating the free play of meanings within the framework of loosened grammatical structures
- Julia Kristeva
· 2 different aspects of language, both of which are always present in any
· symbolic: authority, order, repression, control
· symbiotic: displacement, slippage, condensation
· bled off by Jacques Lacan´s distinction between the two realms of the Imaginary and the Symbolic
ü Feminist criticism and psychoanalysis
- Sandra Gilbert & Susan Gubar
· idea of the ‘social castration’
· signifies women´s lack of social power
ü Feminist criticism and the role of theory:
- ‘Anglo-American’ feminism:
· Traditional critical concepts (theme, motif, and characterisation)
· Use of historical data and non-literary material: diaries, memoirs, social and medical history etc.
· Elaine Showalter, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Patricia Stubbs, and Rachel Brownstein
- ‘French’ feminism:
· More overtly theoretical -- often deals with language, representation, and psychology
· Literary text is never primarily a representation of reality
· Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, and Luce Irigaray
ü Feminist literary studies à revising the canon:
- discovery and reprisal of writings by women that had been lost and forgotten;
· Oxford Anthology of English Literature of 1973 – one female author (!)
· Norton Anthology of 2006 – 26 women writers
- analysis of the conditions of production, distribution, reception and transmission of female writing and exploration of the horizons of possibility and constrains that women authors were subject to
- reading and re-evaluating literature (of male writes) from the point of view of women as readers.
ü Poststructuralist feminism à concepts of gender-specific feminine language that escapes from the dominant, socially accepted, male-centered ways of expression.
ü Gynocriticism à only women can speak for women (Elaine Showalter).
ü Gender studies:
- gender vs. sex à sex is biologically determined and generally associated with a certain gender. Gender is a set of cultural concepts about the role and behaviour of a sex. Sex and gender need not to coincide
- shift from essentialism to performativity: critics refused to view gender/sex as an essential factor of personal identity but instead look at it as subordination to social rules
- Judith Butler – the person most connected to the reformation of feminism. She developed a highly innovative concept of sex and gender.
ü Queer theory:
- Reflection on the role of sexuality in society and culture
- Uncovering of how concepts of homosexuality / heterosexuality influence the production and reception of literature.
- “queering” -> critical reading of “normal” social practices with intention to subvert established norms and prevent repression of deviant sexual practices