A Critique of Twentieth Century Feminist Criticism
Keywords:Feminism, Gynocriticism, Sexuality, Feminist Criticism, Women’s Creativity, Phallocentric, Sexual Politics, Images of Women, Social Construct
Feminist criticism arose in response to developments in the field of the feminist movement. Many thinkers such as John Stuart Mill, Mary Wollstonecraft raised their voice against the injustice done to women in every sphere of life. As this gained momentum throughout the world, feminist also awakened to the depiction and representation of women in literature which is one of the influential medium of socialization and culture. They argued that woman and womanhood are not biological facts but are given social constructs. One is not born a woman, but becomes one through culture and socialization. At first, feminist criticism was reactionary in the nature in the sense that they exposed stereotypical images of women in the literature. These images of women were promulgated by the male writers. These images of women were what men think of women. Gradually, feminist criticism moved from this phase to more constructive work. They unearthed many women writers that were either suppressed or neglected by the male literary tradition. In this way, they created a separate literary tradition of women writers. Feminist critics divided this tradition in such phases as feminine phase, feminist phase and female phase. They also studied the problems faced by female creative writers. They used theories from post-structuralism, Marxism, psychoanalysis to study the nature of female creativity. They also realized that there is an innate difference between male and female modes of writing. Feminist critics also exposed the sexiest nature of man-made language. They also exposed phallic centrism of much of the western literary theory and criticism. They also started to study the language used by the women writers. Simon De Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Elaine Showalter and Juliet Mitchell are some of the feminist critics discussed in this paper.
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