Feminist Theory and Feminist Literary Criticism An

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Camilla V Pheiffer Maiken S Myrrh j,Professor Mia Rendix. Master s Thesis in English,3 June 2019, In this thesis we analyse how women are portrayed in two novels penned over a century. apart using mainly feminist theory and feminist literary criticism By gathering a historical context. regarding feminism and describing the ideas and theories by H l ne Cixous Robin Lakoff Simone. de Beauvoir and Judith Butler we have been able to analyse Charlotte Bront s Jane Eyre from. 1847 and Margaret Atwood s The Handmaid s Tale from 1985 In our comparative analysis of the. two novels we discovered that they had several similarities despite being written over a century. apart Both novels portray a society in which women are the inferior gender and religion plays a. dominant part Both main characters represent ordinary women in their respective societies and. they are both restricted in terms of opportunities actions and even their language which makes. them feel imprisoned Furthermore by discussing the theorists personal bias and reflecting on our. choices we identified the advantages and disadvantages of using newer theory on older works of. literature and using different types of theories We have been able to discuss the possibilities and. limits of feminist literary criticism As a result of this we concluded that we are able to analyse. older works thoroughly based on the terms ideas and methods introduced with newer theories In. addition we concluded that using different types of theories can broaden your analysis and it turns. out that the theories are interwoven which makes it evident to connect them in an analysis. However we face the risk of over analysing and applying theory and meaning that was not indented. in the first place which is why we must be cautious in our argumentation. Myrrh j Pheiffer 1,Table of Contents,Introduction 3. Feminism 4,Waves of Feminism 6,Women s Writing 10,criture feminine 10. The Laugh of the Medusa by H l ne Cixous 13,Language and Woman s Place by Robin Lakoff 19.
Gender Women s role and conditions 22,The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir 22. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler 25,Analysis 30,Jane Eyre 30. Equality Society and Gender 30,Religion 53,Women s Writing 58. The Handmaid s Tale 64,Equality Society and Gender 64. Religion 91,Women s Writing 97,Myrrh j Pheiffer 2,Comparative Analysis and Discussion 104.
Discussion 111,Personal Bias 111,Reflection and Critical View on the Theories 123. Conclusion 130,Works Cited 134,Myrrh j Pheiffer 3,Introduction. Throughout history a major focus within feminism has been on the inequality. between the genders in their respective society What are the reasons for this inequality and. who is to blame This is a question feminists and philosophers have attempted to answer. since the early 1800s after French philosopher Charles Fourier coined the term feminism in. 1837 Since then feminism has developed into theory and to what is now known as feminist. literary criticism It is a literary criticism like any other but its perspective is feminism When. applying feminist literary criticism to a text one can discover a female narrative supported by. its characters themes etc It is through this specific literary criticism that one is able to. deconstruct female characters and the way in which texts portray them Furthermore because. of our contemporary knowledge regarding the history of feminism we can apply the. contemporary society and its social roles of the time in which a text was written. One of the major works within feminism is the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bront. 1847 The novel contains criticism regarding religion society and social roles While the. novel was written before the term feminism was coined it is nevertheless considered a. feminist novel Another feminist work that recently attracted attention is the novel The. Handmaid s Tale by Margaret Atwood 1985 Like Jane Eyre The Handmaid s Tale. contains criticism regarding religion society and social roles Despite being written 138 years. apart they share similarities within their criticism which is one of the reasons for choosing. these two novels, In 1949 French feminist and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir wrote her book The. Second Sex which discusses women s inferiority throughout history and how women are. considered to be the other In 1975 American feminist and linguistics professor Robin. Lakoff wrote her book Language and Woman s Place where she discusses and analyses the. relationship between gender and language Also in 1975 French feminist and philosopher. Myrrh j Pheiffer 4, H l ne Cixous wrote her essay The Laugh of the Medusa in which she discusses criture. feminine and encourages women to write themselves in order to reclaim their body In 1990. American feminist and philosopher Judith Butler wrote her book Gender Trouble Feminism. and the Subversion of Identity where she states that gender is socially constructed and she. introduces her term gender performativity All four feminists and their theories share a. common focus on women s role within society, This thesis focuses on feminist theory and feminist literary criticism and the analysis.
takes up a dominant part of the thesis Including an historical overview of feminism and an. account of the prominent feminist theories this thesis analyses how the two novels authors. portray women within their respective societies and their conditions role and place by. primarily using feminist literary criticism Thereafter we discuss the similarities and. differences between the two novels in a comparative analysis and discussion We furthermore. discuss how the portrayals of women in the novels compare to the periods in which they were. written Lastly we examine the context in which the theories were written and discuss the. significance thereof We also discuss the possibilities and limits of feminist literary criticism. and the pros and cons of including different types of theories when analysing a literary work. The term feminism is unfortunately associated with extremists and man haters We. have observed this tendency in our personal lives and to our surprise men and women share. this prejudice about feminism We wondered when how and why the term feminism. achieved such negative associations which is why we would like to examine the history of. feminism its origin and core values and principles In Western culture the core of feminism. is the belief that women are subordinated to men Feminism seeks to liberate women. from this subordination and to reconstruct society in such a way that patriarchy is eliminated. Myrrh j Pheiffer 5, and a culture created that is fully inclusive of women s desires and purposes Edgar. Sedgwick 124 Since its inception the focus of feminism was the fight for women s political. and economic equality 124 In the nineteenth century feminism gained attention with the. Suffragette movement and the twentieth century saw the proliferation of civil rights. movements and groups campaigning for economic equality who focused on the issues of state. welfare for mothers equal education and equal pay 124 As feminism developed and. scholars began to pay attention different areas within the term began to emerge such as. feminist theory and feminist literary criticism, Historian Rosalind Delmar believes that both feminists and non feminists have taken. the meaning of the term feminism for granted and that the meaning has been assumed. because people regarded it as self evident Thus the assumption that the meaning of. feminism is obvious needs to be challenged It has become an obstacle to understanding. feminism in its diversity and in its differences and in its specificity as well Kolmar. Bartkowski 27 As a society we need to start defining feminism and be more specific in this. definition because it is clear what happens when people have to assume the meaning the. negative associations grow and spread widely and the notion of feminism is misunderstood. and misrepresented Delmar suggests an example of how a basic definition of feminism could. be constructed Many would agree that at the very least a feminist is someone who holds. that women suffer discrimination because of their sex that they have specific needs which. remain negated and unsatisfied and that the satisfaction of these needs would require a. radical change some would say a revolution even in the social economic and political. order 27 She concedes that it becomes more complicated as there are different branches. approaches and focuses of feminism Twenty first century feminism is in constant. development and the fourth wave of feminism is roaring ahead. Myrrh j Pheiffer 6,Waves of Feminism, Wendy Kolmar and Frances Bartkowski both professors who study gender studies. have described the waves of feminism in their book Feminist Theory A Reader 2005 They. begin by defining the women s role at the end of the eighteenth century and how most. women in the United States and Great Britain had no public legal existence They were either. daughters identified by their fathers status or wives identified by their husbands Kolmar. Bartkowski 62 At this point the term feminist theory was not used and the call for. women s rights were not taken seriously In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft published her. groundbreaking book Vindication of the Rights of Woman in which she argues that women. should be eligible for education in the same way that men are Men should regard their wives. as companions not simply as their wives and she calls for equality between the sexes The. main struggle of the nineteenth century for women was the Suffragette movement which. began in the United States with the 1848 Seneca Falls meeting and continued through 1920. when the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave U S women the vote 62 They fought. for the right for women to own property gain custody of their children be able to file for. divorce and be eligible for education 62 Nineteenth century writing about women. addressed how their situation was shaped by urbanization and industrialization For. working class women urbanization meant factory or service work at low wages and in poor. conditions as well as the need to feed and care for a family under these circumstances 62. 63 Working class women who arrived in the cities in search of work had to face the sad. reality that the only work available for them was prostitution 63 This sparked much. concern in the United States and Great Britain but these concerns and arguments later. evolved to become women fighting for access to birth control and their right to make. decisions about their own sexuality 63 By 1920 suffrage had brought about significant. change for women They were able to access better education and had more legal rights. Myrrh j Pheiffer 7, The time after the 1920s is considered the doldrums of American feminism 136. The suffragettes, were disappointed to discover that the women s vote did not radically alter the.
outcome of elections that women voted in relatively small numbers and for. the most part with their husbands fathers and brothers At the same time. suffrage organizations were disbanding and their members dispersing into a. variety of organizations The image of the flapper suggests a 1920s woman. who is socially and sexually freer but is not a political activist in the way her. suffragist foremothers might have hoped 136, After the Second World War the organisation known as WILPF Women s. International League for Peace and Freedom were able to help found the United Nations. with the help of powerful women such as Eleanor Roosevelt 136 In the 1950s African. American women and a few white women became involved in the beginning of civil rights. activism 136 It is also around this time that women gained access to higher education and. academically trained women working in specific fields were beginning to produce. substantial writing about women and feminism 136 Simone de Beauvoir was one such. writer Overall the mid twentieth century demonstrated how culture and ideology made the. making of women 137 The 1960s were a defending decade. of social upheaval in the United States marked by the assassinations of. President John Kennedy in 1963 and of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert. Kennedy in 1968 Movements for civil rights and gay rights and against the. United States escalating military involvement in Vietnam strengthened as. decade progressed Many of the women who became active in the. women s movement in this decade learned political activism in these other. social justice movements where they also experienced sexism firsthand 196. Myrrh j Pheiffer 8, In this decade women of colour became active within the civil rights movement and. started writing feminist theory They also established organisations such as the National. Black Feminist Organization 196 The work of radical feminists and lesbian feminists was. essential to development of feminist thought in this period their analysis of the. sex gender system and particularly of sexuality and reproduction as the root causes of. women s oppression crystallized the notion that the personal is political 196 197 In. the 1970s women were closer to equality as the first women s studies programs were. created in these years as were rape crisis centers and hotlines battered women s shelters. women s centers and women s bookstores 197 However the most significant win for. Feminist Theory and Feminist Literary Criticism An dominant part Both main characters represent ordinary women in their respective societies and they are both restricted in terms of opportunities actions and even their language which makes them feel imprisoned Furthermore by discussing the theorists personal bias and reflecting on our choices we identified the advantages and

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