Towards a Feminist Reading Shodhganga

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Moreover it has been an important function of feminist criticism to redirect. attention to personal and everyday experience of alienation and oppression of. women as reflected in literary texts Traditional notion of politics is thus redefined. so as to acknowledge the permeation of power relations into the most mundane. social practices The feminist concept of personal is political means that woman s. distinctive experience as woman occurs within that sphere that has been socially. lived as the personal private emotional interiorized particular individuated and. intimate Thus what it is to know the politics of woman s situation is to know. woman s personal lives, In her essay Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness Elaine Showalter. categorizes two distinct modes of feminist criticism The first mode which is. ideological is concerned with the feminist as reader Within the parameters of this. mode lies the feminist readings of texts which are specifically male authored The. focus is on images and stereotypes of women in literature the omissions and. misconceptions about women in criticism and women assign in semiotic systems. lThis mode of criticism which was practised in the earliest years of feminist. criticism concentrated on exposing the misogyny of literary practice the stereotyped. images of women in literature as angels or monsters the literary ab se or textual. harassment of women in classic and popular as well as canonical texts Showalter. calls this mode the feminist critique Such influential feminist texts from the late. sixties and early seventies like Kate Millett s Sexual Politics Ellen Moer s Literary. Women and Mary EHmann s Thinking About Women paved the way for such critical. approach Millett s Sexual Politics is in many ways the starting point from which. feminist literary criticism originated Millett uses literary texts to illustrate her. arguments about sexual politics Through hcr analysis of the novels of male writers. like Norman Mailer D H Lawrence Henry Miller and Jean Genet she exposes their. patriarchal bias and their sexual textual harassment of women Millett has also. fiercely critiqued Sigmund Freud as a great supporter and perpetuator of patriarchal. conspiracy against women She challenges the author s authority and insists on the. reader s right to express her own viewpoint As Toril Moi observes Her approach. destroys the prevailing image of the rcader critic as passive feminine recipient of. authoritarian discourse and as such is exactly suited to feminism s political. purposes 2 Ellmann in her analysis shows that the Western culture at all levels is. permeated by a phenomenon she labels as thought by sexual analogy EUmann in. the words of Toril Moi manages to demonstrate first that the very concept of. masculinity and femininity are social constructs which refer to no real essence in the. world and second that the feminine stereotypes she describes invariably. deconstructs themselves 3 Ellen Moer had tried to show through her work how. women s writing forms a subculture of marginalized sensibilities Her work shows. how woman writers share secret solidarities with other women and fonnulate. strategies of resistance across various cultures Millett s Ellmann s and Moer s. method has come to be known as reading against the grain which the feminist. critics have used to great profit in their critique of the patriarchal discourse and. ideology Their influential books greatly influenced what is also known as Images. of Women approach to literature and criticism inaugurating the first phase of. feminist writing which focuses attention on women as readers Moreover their. analyses point to the ways in which women are represented as passive masochistic. and totally male identified Relationships with men are shown to dictate the. structuring principles of femininity and an unquestioned masculinity lays the. boundaries for what women mayor may not be Women are depicted in ways which. meet particular fonns of male interest and women readers are encouraged to identify. with traditional female gender nonns of sensibility passivity and irrationality. The second mode of feminist criticism is the study of women as writers and. its subjects are the history styles themes genres and structures of writing by. women the psychodynamics of female creativity the trajectory of the individual or. collective female career and the evolution and laws of a female literary tradition 4. Disturbed by the sudden realization that women had invariably been represented in. stereotypical ways by a literary heritage that claimed universality feminist critics. turned to women authors for alternative images of women As all literary theory is. text specific feminist criticism in order to develop had to identify women s writing. as its distinctive text milieu Thus the second mode of feminist criticism is. concerned with women s writing specifically with writing as a mode of resistance. In what Showalter terms gynocritics the study of woman as writer women are. invited to speak for themselves even if they continue to do so from within a. patriarchal culture Showalter s A Literature of Their Own traces a female literary. tradition in the English novel from the Brontes to the present day and d monstrates. that the development of this tradition is similar to the development of any literary. subculture Her book is perhaps the most influential of the accounts of women s. writings in its difference from men s She identifies a female subculture in which. fiction by women constitutes a record of their experience She defines three separate. but overlapping phases feminine feminist and female The feminine phase is. marked by imitation of prevailing masculine models though concerns are. distinctively feminine The feminist phase is one in which formulation of specifically. feminist protests and demands become visible And lastly the female phase is the. phase of self discovery and exploration of an inner space of female experience. Today gynocriticism assumes that all writing is marked by gender Although. feminist critics recognize that meaning of gender needs to be interpreted within a. variety of historical national racial and sexual contexts they maintain that woman. writers are not free to renounce or transcend their gender entirely Women can. differentiate their positions from any number of stereotypes of femininity and defme. themselves also in terms of being black lesbian postcolonial or working class but to. deny that they are affected by being women at all is self delusion or self hatred. Gynocritics aim at constructing a female framework for the analysis of. women s literature to develop new models based on the study of female experience. rather than to adapt male models and theories As Showalter writes Gynocritics. begins at the point where we free ourselves from the linear absolutes of male literary. history stop trying to fit women between the lines of male tradition and focus. instead on the newly visible world of female culture s. The shift from feminist critique to gynocritics as emphasis on woman. as reader to emphasis on woman as writer has helped in developing a feminist. criticism that is genuinely woman centred independent and intellectually. coherent To see women s writing as primary subject forces us to make the leap to a. new conceptual vantage point and to redefine the nature of theoretical problem. before it It is no longer the ideological dilemma of reconciling revisionary. pluralisms but the essential question of difference Theories of women s writing. presently make use of four models of difference biological linguistic. psychoanalytic and cultural As pointed out by Showalter each is an effort to define. and differentiate the qualities of woman writer and woman s text. Organic or biological criticism is the most extreme statement of gender. difference To some feminists a text is indelibly marked by the body anatomy is. textuality Radical feminists both in France and the United States insist and argue. that woman s writing proceeds Tom the body that our sexual differentiation is also. our source In Of Woman Born Rich explains her belief that female. biology has far more radical implications than we have yet come to appreciate. Patriarchal thought has limited female biology to its own narrow specifications The. feminist vision has recoiled from female biology for these reasons it will I believe. come to view our physicality as a resource rather than a destiny In order to live a. fully human life we require not only control of our bodies we must touch the unity. and resonance of our physicality the corporeal ground of our intelligence 6. Referring to the body as a concrete object and as a signifier in social. discourse of the unconscious Helene Cixous constantly exhorts the women to WTite. By writing her self woman will return to the body which has been more. than confiscated from her Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the. Write your self Your body must be heard Only then will the Immense. resources of the unconscious spring forth 7, Writing the body is an injunction to liberate the unconscious Women. alienated from language have been literally silenced Unable to sublimate the libido. into cultural achievements woman is physicality incarnate More so than men who. are coaxed toward social success toward sublimation women are body More body. hence more writing The Laugh of the Medusa p 886 Cixous maintains that the. female body is also not fragmented but a whole in which each part is a whole. not simple partial objects but a moving limitlessly changing ensemble a. cosmos tirelessly traversed by Eros an immense astral space not organized around. anyone sun that s any more of a star than the others s. Cixous most often focuses upon the vagina and the breast the source of the. white ink with which women will write as roots of her metaphors Liquid. products such as milk and blood abound When she thinks of woman s body she. I think in terms of overflow in terms of an energy which spills over the. flow of which cannot be controlled 9, Feminist criticism written in the biological perspective generally stresses the. importance of the body as a source of imagery This form of criticism which itself. tries to be biological to write from the critic s body has been intimate confessional. often innovative in style and form The study of biological imagery in women s. writing is useful and important since ideas about the body are fundamental to. understanding how women conceptualize their situation in society. Apart from the body concept feminists mostly in France focus on the use. of an appropriate female language This is because they find the dominant mode of. discourse as one marked by masculine ideology According to Carolyn Burke. when a woman write or speak herself into existence she is forced to speak in. something like a foreign tongue a language with which she may be personally. uncomfortable lo The debate over language is one of tl c most exciting areas in. gynocritics The concept of ecriture feminine the inscription of the female body. and female difference in language and text has developed as a significant theoretical. fonnulation in French feminist criticism that aims at systematically deconstructing. the oppressor s language, Cixous defines a woman s language as closer to the body to sexual pleasure. and asserts that this closeness to the body and to nature could be subversive She. contrasts feminine writing I ecriture feminine with masculine writing literatur. She has objected to masculine writing and thinking because they are cast in binary. oppositions Man has unnecessarily segmented reality by coupling concepts and. tenns in pairs of polar opposites one of which is always privileged over the other In. her essay Sorties Cixous listed some of these dichotomous pairs. Activity Passivity,CulturelNature,Thought has also worked through opposition.
Speaking Writing,Parole Ecriture,through dual hierarchical oppositions. Superior Inferior I I, Cixous has challenged women to write themselves out of the world men have. constructed for them by putting into words the unthinking unthought The kind of. writing Cixous associated with men comprises the bulk of the accurnmulated. wisdom of humankind Because these thoughts have been stamped with the official. seal of approval they are no longer permitted to move or change Contrary wise the. kind of writing that she identified as woman s own marking scratching scribbling. jotting down connotes movements like that of an ever changing river Thus for. Cixous feminine writing is not merely a new style of writIng it is the very. possibility of ch ge the space that can serve as a springboard for subversive. thought the precursory movement of a transformation of social and cultural. standards 12, While distinguishing between woman s writing from man s Cixous draws. many connections between male sexuality and masculine writing on the one hand. and female sexuality and female writing on the other hand Like male sexuality. which centers on the penis with all its pointedness and singularity masculine writings. is marked by rigidity repetition and monotony Men write the same old things with. their little pocket signifier the trio of penis phallus pen Contrary wise feminine. writing like female sexuality i open and mUltiple varied and rhythmic full of. pleasures and possibilities Her writing can only keep going without ever. Towards a Feminist Reading The advent of feminism as a global and revolutionary ideology has brought into the field of literary criticism new critical outlooks and modes of exegesis The practice of reading of any literary text has become a site in the struggle for change in gender relations that prevail in society A reading that is feminist aims at asking such rudimentary questions how the

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